The number of people thought to be missing after the Costa Concordia disaster has more than doubled to 29.
The Italian coastguard revised the number upwards from 16 last night, saying 25 passengers and four crew members remain unaccounted for after the ship ran into rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio on Friday.
Seven people have been confirmed dead in the tragedy which Costa have blamed on the ship’s captain.
At least three Italian families have said they had not heard from relatives on the ship while 10 Germans and two Americans are thought to be among those unaccounted for.
Costa chairman Pier Luigi Foschi said the unauthorised deviation from the ship’s route from the port of Rome route had been taken to “make a salute”.
Captain Francesco Schettino was accused of sailing close to land to “show the ship to the port”.
Foschi said the ship had deviated from the correct route when it hit rocks near the coast, tearing a large hole in the hull, and that the captain had contravened the company’s safety procedures.
“The company disavows such behaviour, which caused the accident,” he said.
The captain is being investigated by Italian prosecutors for possible manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing a shipwreck. Captain Schettino has been accused of leaving the vessel before ensuring that all of the 4,200 people aboard, including 35 Britons, were safely evacuated.
But the captain insisted in an interview before his arrest that he stayed with the vessel to the end. A judge will decide today whether Captain Schettino should remain in jail pending legal proceedings.
Investigators will concentrate their efforts on the ship’s ‘black box’ recorders which will contain full details of how the vessel came to run aground on Friday evening.
Reports already suggest a conversation between the captain and port a port official on Giglio recorded hours after the incident showed him to be evasive when asked how many women and children were on board.
The port official is reportedly heard to ask if the captain was abandoning the evacuation of the ship.
Environmental concerns have been raised amid fears that 2,300 gallons of fuel from the 112,000 tonne ship could leak into waters that are part of a protected sanctuary for dolphins, porpoises and whales.
Italy’s environment minister Corrado Clini said there was evidence that liquid was leaking from the ship, but he could not confirm whether the fluid was fuel. He said the government would declare a state of emergency to release extra funding to help avoid a fuel spill causing an environmental disaster.
Foschi said the accident would likely hurt the cruise industry in the short-term but did not expect a lasting fallout. “We have one million loyal customers and are hoping that the reputation of our company will be repaired,” he said.
Shares in parent company Carnival Corporation fell by 16.5% yesterday after the company admitted that the tragedy would cost it at least $95 million.
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