Costa Concordia: More bodies recovered, salvage may take a year

<i>This post has been corrected, as indicated below.</i>

Five more bodies were recovered Monday from the Costa Concordia, more than two months after the cruise ship struck a reef and became submerged off the Tuscan coast, the Italian Civil Protection agency reported. That brings the official death toll of the Jan. 13 disaster to 30, with two people still missing and presumed dead.

The bodies were found by search crews Thursday, the statement says, but it took 34 divers and 15 vessels to retrieve them in a recovery effort that started Monday morning local time. The agency will continue to search for the missing bodies with the aid of an underwater robot. Identities of the victims weren’t revealed.

Costa Cruises and parent company Carnival Corp. refused to comment about the casualties or the recovery operations.

However Costa says removal of the ship that remains off the coast of Giglio Island is expected to take 10 to 12 months once a salvage company has been selected for the project. Six salvage proposals are being evaluated by Costa, ship builder Fincantieri, maritime authorities and government representatives from Giglio Island. The selection is expected to be made in mid-April.

Last week, Costa announced most of the fuel from the ship had been successfully removed. It noted in a statement “minimal amounts” of fuel that pose no significant environmental risk remain in the ship’s tanks.

Francesco Schettino, captain of the Concordia, has been accused of causing the accident by sailing too close to the island. He is under investigation and could faces charges of manslaughter and abandoning the ship before the 4,200 passengers and crew members were safely evacuated.

[For the record, 11:50 a.m. March 27: An earlier version of this post mistakenly said Francesco Schettino had been charged with manslaughter and abandoning ship. Media reports say he has been accused but not charged.]