31 Jan 2012

Months before wrecked liner can be removed

5:28 am on 31 January 2012

Officials in Italy say it may take up to 10 months to remove the wreck of the cruise liner, Costa Concordia, which ran aground off the coast of Tuscany on 13 January.

Head of recovery operations Franco Gabrielli says the initial goal of the recovery mission had been to find survivors and now the goal was to ensure it did not translate into an environmental disaster.

He said it would take up to two weeks before a salvage contract can be awarded, as more than 2000 tonnes of diesel oil will first have to be pumped out of the ship's tanks.

The Costa Concordia was carrying 4,200 passengers and crew when it ran aground on rocks off the island of Giglio.

Seventeen people are known to have died in the disaster, with another 15 still unaccounted for.

Meanwhile, divers searching for bodies on the Costa Concordia suspended work on Sunday after heavy seas and strong winds caused the vessel to shift noticeably.

Operations off the Italian coast to begin pumping fuel from the capsized liner had already been called off because of bad weather a day earlier.