Italian cruise ship captain resisted orders to reboard
5 more bodies discovered in wreckage
The captain of an Italian cruise ship that ran aground off Italy made excuses and resisted a coast guard officer's repeated orders for him to reboard his stricken liner and aid passengers, an audio recording released Tuesday reveals.
The recording of the telephone conversation emerged as Italian rescue workers discovered five more bodies Tuesday in the wreck of the cruise ship — lying virtually on its side, half submerged in the waters off the Tuscan coast — raising the death toll to 11.
Prosecutors have accused Capt. Francesco Schettino of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his vessel before all passengers were evacuated during the grounding of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the Tuscan coast on Friday night.
After Schettino was interrogated by prosecutors for three hours Tuesday, a judge in Grosseto, Tuscany, ruled that the captain, who had been detained a few hours after he allegedly abandoned the Concordia, should be released from jail and confined to his home near Naples under house arrest, his lawyer, Bruno Leporatti, told reporters outside the courthouse.
Prosecutors wanted him kept in Grosseto's prison, and Leporatti had asked that he be freed.
Schettino had insisted he stayed aboard the ship until everyone was off it, but the shocking audio recording released Tuesday suggests otherwise.
The recording of the call, which took place on Friday, documents Italian Coast Guard Capt. Gregorio De Falco repeatedly ordering Schettino to return to the ship to oversee the evacuation. Schettino resists, making excuses that it's dark and that the ship is listing.
De Falco berates the captain, who is in a lifeboat and repeatedly saying he doesn't want to return to the ship, even as passengers are still being evacuated from it.
"You go on board and then you will tell me how many people there are," De Falco shouted in the audiotape. "Is that clear?"
Schettino resisted, saying the ship was tipping and that it was dark. At the time, he said he was co-ordinating the rescue from the lifeboat.
De Falco shouted back: "And so what? You want to go home, Schettino? It is dark and you want to go home? Get on that prow of the boat using the pilot ladder and tell me what can be done, how many people there are and what their needs are. Now!
"You go aboard. It is an order. Don't make any more excuses. You have declared the abandoning of the ship. Now I am in charge."
Schettino was finally heard agreeing to reboard. It is unclear whether he did.
The ship was carrying more than 4,200 people when it struck a reef Friday evening and capsized. The captain made an unauthorized deviation from its programmed course, Costa cruises CEO has said.
Before the latest find, officials said 29 missing passengers and crew were missing, up from an earlier estimate of 16. Coast guard official Marco Brusco said earlier the missing included 25 passengers and four crew members.
Italian officials said Tuesday the missing included 14 Germans, six Italians, four French, two Americans, one Hungarian, one Indian and one Peruvian.
The cruise company's chief executive said Monday that the captain made an "unauthorized" deviation from the liner's programmed course.
Costa Crociere chairman and CEO Pier Luigi Foschi said earlier the company stood by Schettino, and would provide him with legal assistance. But he told reporters that the company, which is owned by the world's largest cruise line, Carnival Corp., dissociated itself from his behaviour.
He said the routes of Costa ships are programmed, and alarms go off when a vessel deviates from the correct course.
Captain ordered back to ship
Read the transcript of the cruise ship captain's heated conversation with the Italian coast guard .
There are reports that the captain brought the cruise ship closer to Giglio Island to wave to residents on shore, the CBC's Sasa Petricic reported from Italy.
"If you talk to people in the port here, [the word] is that he moved closer to shore because there were some crew members who were trying to salute or impress people on shore," he said.
Earlier Tuesday, Italian naval divers set off explosives to create four small openings in the hull of the ship to speed the search.
Navy spokesman Alessandro Busonero told Sky TV 24 the micro-charges created four openings in the Costa Concordia, which ran aground off Italy's Tuscan coast.
Army diver Fabio Massica spent Tuesday morning inside the wrecked vessel searching for survivors.
The task wasn't easy, he told CBC's Derek Stoffel. All the objects inside the ship — tables and everything else — are floating around, he said
Massica wasn't able to find any survivors in the ship's hull, but he said he isn't giving up.
"You must have hope that you will find someone alive," he said. "But what we need right now is a miracle."
The cruise liner tragedy has also turned into a potential environmental crisis, as rough seas battering the stricken ship raise fears that fuel might leak into the sea.
A Dutch extraction firm said Tuesday it will take between two to four weeks to safely remove fuel from the wreckage.
The firm Smit, of Rotterdam, Netherlands, said the search operation for the missing people has the first priority and a survey of the ship must take place before the extraction begins.
However, officials said the two operations can go on in tandem and the fuel extraction could begin as early as Wednesday if approved by Italian officials.
Italy's environment minister has warned of an ecological crisis if the oil spills off the island of Giglio, part of a protected sanctuary for dolphins, porpoises and whales. Some 1.9 million litres of fuel are on board the Costa Concordia.
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With files from the CBC