* Coastal guard now estimates 29 people missing
* Search suspended overnight, to resume at daybreak
* Captain arrested for manslaughter, fleeing ship
* Operators blame captain, say he came close to "salute"
By Gavin Jones and Antonio Denti
GIGLIO, Italy, Jan 16 A stricken Italian
cruise liner shifted on its rocky resting place on Monday as
worsening weather disrupted an increasingly despairing hunt for
survivors and authorities raised their estimate of the number
missing to 29 people.
As the Costa Concordia's owners blamed their captain for
veering shorewards on Friday in a bravura "salute" to residents
of a Tuscan island, the giant ship slid a little, threatening to
plunge its whole gigantic carcass and 2,300 tonnes of fuel below
the Mediterranean waters of the surrounding nature reserve.
The slippage forced rescuers to suspend for a few hours
their efforts to find anyone still alive after three days in the
capsized hull, resting on a jagged slope outside the picturesque
harbour on the island of Giglio. Six bodies have been found.
Most of the 4,200 passengers and crew survived, despite hours of
An Italian coastguard official told Reuters late on Monday
that the nummber of people missing had been revised up to 29 -
25 passengers and four members of staff - from 16, showing how
much uncertainty still surrounded the disaster.
Another maritime official said later that 10 Germans were
thought to be among the missing passengers.
The 114,500-tonne ship, one of the biggest passenger vessels
ever to be wrecked, foundered after striking a rock just as
dinner was being served on Friday night. It quickly rolled on
its side, revealing a long gouge below the waterline.
Firefighters' spokesman Luca Cari said there were still
small movements of the vessel but they were not considered
dangerous. However, searches were suspended overnight and would
resume at daybreak.
Another senior firefighter, Luciano Roncalli, told Reuters
that all the unsubmerged areas of the liner had been searched,
indicating faint hopes of finding more survivors in the flooded
and upturned maze of luxurious state rooms and tennis courts,
bars and spas that are now submerged beneath the sea.
Environment Minister Corrado Clini said he would declare a
state of emergency because of the risk that the ship's fuel
would leak into the pristine Tuscan Archipelago National Park.
No fuel spillage has been detected so far, he said on an Italian
television show due to air on Monday evening.
Should rougher seas dislodge the wreck and cause it to sink
or break up, that could scupper any hopes for the owners, a unit
of Florida's Carnival Corp., of salvaging a liner which cost
hundreds of millions of dollars to build just six years ago.
"SALUTE" TO SHORE
Investigators say the ship was far too close to the shore
and its owners, Costa Cruises, said the captain, who has been
arrested, had carried out the rash manoeuvre to "make a bow" to
people on the island, who included a retired Italian admiral.
The skipper denies charges of manslaughter and his lawyer
has said his actions saved many lives.
The father of the ship's head waiter told Reuters his son
had telephoned him before the accident to say the crew would
salute him by blowing the ship's whistle as they passed close by
Giglio, where both the waiter, Antonello Tievoli, and his
82-year-old father Giuseppe live.
"The ship obviously came too close," the elder Tievoli said.
"I don't know if Antonello asked the captain to come near, but
the responsibility is always the captain's."
The captain, Francesco Schettino, was arrested on Saturday.
He is accused of manslaughter and abandoning his ship before all
those on board were evacuated. Prosecutors say he also refused
to go back on board when requested by the coastguard.
Costa Cruises chief executive Pier Luigi Foschi on Monday
blamed errors by Schettino for the disaster. He told a news
conference the company would provide its captain with any
assistance he required. "But we need to acknowledge the facts
and we cannot deny human error," he added.
"These ships are ultra-safe. It is an exceptional event,
which was unforeseeable," he said, fighting back tears.
He said the ship deviated from its correct route and
Schettino had contravened safety procedures. "The company
disavows such behaviour, which caused the accident," he said.
Foschi said company vessels were forbidden to come closer
than 500 metres to the Giglio coast. Investigators say the
liner, designed as a floating pleasure palace for over 3,000
paying customers, was about 150 metres (yards) offshore when it
hit the rocks that tore a long gash in its thousand-foot hull.
Schettino denies being too close to the coast and says the
rock he hit was not marked on charts.
His lawyer, Bruno Leporatti, issued a statement saying
Schettino was "broken-up, troubled and saddened by the loss of
life". But he believed he had saved many lives by carrying out a
difficult emergency manoeuvre with anchors after the accident,
which turned the ship closer to the shore.
CHAOS AND PANIC
Foschi denied allegations passengers had not been trained
how to evacuate the ship, where there were scenes of chaos and
panic after the collision. There were around 1,020 crew from 38
nations on board but many were entertainers or catering staff
rather than seasoned mariners.
Foschi called the crew "heroes" and said they had responded
"We had to evacuate over 4,200 people in difficult
circumstances so the entire operation took more than two hours.
The reason for this is the listing of the ship which did not
enable us to use both sides to evacuate people."
The calm weather which since Friday has aided the search of
the wreck, by some estimates the biggest passenger vessel ever
to founder, took a turn for the worse with rougher seas and a
light drizzle falling. Forecasters said it would get worse.
A salvage expert on Giglio, who asked not to be named, told
Reuters the ship was clearly moving after being held in place by
sharp points of rock that had pierced the hull. Rougher seas
could break it free, which would be a "big problem", he said.
The ship is resting in about 20 metres (60 feet) of water
but could sink up to a further 130 metres if it became detached
from the rocks.
Cari of the fire brigade said the rescuers could hear no
noises from possible survivors inside the half-submerged ship.
"Obviously the more time passes, the less possibility there
is of finding anyone alive," he said.
MEMORIES OF TITANIC
The United Nations' shipping agency, the International
Maritime Organization, said it was important not to pre-judge
the outcome of an inquiry but said it would examine changes to
regulations if these were shown to be necessary.
Recalling the sinking of the 46,000-tonne Titanic in April
1912, IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu said: "In the
centenary year of the Titanic, we have once again been reminded
of the risks involved in maritime activities."
The disaster occurred as passengers were sitting down to
dinner on Friday night, triggering panic with thousands jostling
to get on lifeboats and some leaping into the icy sea.
Passengers say there were long delays in sending an SOS and
organising the evacuation of those on board and this had
resulted in chaos. More than 60 people were hurt.
Italian passengers told newspapers they used their mobile
phones to call the Carabinieri police in the city of Grosseto on
the mainland to raise the alarm, while the crew were still
insisting to them that there was only an electrical fault.
Three people, a South Korean honeymoon couple and a crewman,
were rescued on Sunday and police divers also found the bodies
of two elderly men, still wearing life vests. The bodies of two
French tourists and a Peruvian crewman were found on Saturday.
Carnival Corp, the ship's Miami-based parent company, said
it estimated the impact on its 2012 earnings for loss of use
alone to be around $90 million. Its share price was down around
16 percent on the London market.
Industry experts said the disaster could seriously hit
cruise bookings at a key time of the year but the sector would
There was deep anger in Italy about the accident.
In a frontpage editorial for the respected daily Corriere
della Sera, Pierluigi Battista wrote: "Italy owes the world,
international public opinion, the families of those who lost
their lives, those who were injured and those who fortunately
remained unhurt, a convincing explanation and the toughest
possible sanctions against those responsible for this tragedy."