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Italy urges to warn off environmental disaster as cruise ship shifts on sea ledge: expert

01-21-2012 08:52 BJT

ROME, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- Urgent action is needed to warn off an environmental disaster on the Italian western coast where Costa Concordia cruise liner is laying on its side and risks to sink into deeper water after it ran aground last Friday killing at least 11 people, an expert said Friday.

Max Iguera, an Italian representative for the Dutch ship salvage management company SMIT that was hired to pump the fuels from the 290-meter-long ship's tanks, said the salvage operation will start as soon as possible.

Some 35 technicians of the company are already on the spot with all necessary equipments to carry out the salvage, he told Xinhua, adding the operation will take at least four weeks, being very complex also due to possible further shifts of the vessel.

"We are ready to start as soon as local authorities will give us the all clear, compatibly with rescue operations still underway," Iguera said, adding 2,400 tons of fuels are still inside the capsized Costa Concordia.

"The ship is being subjected to stresses, which may increase the risk of dangerous leaks," Iguera noted also pointing out that, although the seabed in the area has suffered physical damage from the wreck, there have not been any leaks until now.

"Vessels of this size are like floating cities, therefore everything inside them can pose environmental risks," he said adding his company is considering a next plan to remove the hulk by hoisting it after repairing leaks with soldered metal sheets and pumping water from it.

He stressed the first action will be monitoring and controlling all movements of the ship, as there are now fears that sea storms may push the Costa Concordia into deeper water.

Meanwhile, new details emerged about the dramatic mishap occurred near Giglio island 25 km of the Tuscany coast, as tape records proved evidence the crew assured passengers nothing serious was wrong while the vessel was already sinking.

The company Costa Cruises, owner of the ship, has suspended captain Francesco Schettino, withdrawing an offer to pay his legal costs, according to local media.

Schettino, who is presently under house arrest after being detained with charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship, was said to have been in command quarters with a young Moldovan dancer in the wreck night.

A phone conversation recording between the 52-year-old captain and a local port authority official suggested he left the ship before all passengers had evacuated.

Editor:Zhang Hao |Source: Xinhua

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