Rome - The search for two bodies still missing 20 months
after Italy's Costa Concordia cruise ship tragedy began on Tuesday off the
island of Giglio, Italy's civil protection agency said.
Salvage workers, who pulled the doomed vessel upright
from its watery grave last week in an unprecedented operation, "have
ensured the ship is secure and given the green light to begin the search",
a spokesperson said.
"Specialist divers from the coastguard, fire brigade
and police have begun scouring the area between the righted ship and the
land," she added.
The team is looking for the corpses of Italian passenger
Maria Grazia Tricarichi and crew member Russel Rebello, whose bodies were not
recovered after the night-time disaster on 13 January 2012, which left 32
They will also be assessing how best to carry out the
search within the wrecked liner if necessary.
Franco Gabrielli, head of Italy's civil protection
agency, had earlier said that the righting of the ship gave searchers a chance
to access parts of the vessel previously off limits.
"When the ship toppled, corridors became deep wells.
Now she is upright, we can get to areas previously off limits," he said,
adding that there would likely "still be areas it is difficult to access
The Concordia had 4 229 people from 70 countries on board
when it struck rocks just off Giglio after veering sharply towards the island
in a bravado sail-by allegedly ordered by its captain, Francesco Schettino.
It lurched over onto one side during a chaotic and
delayed evacuation, throwing terrified people into the freezing sea and
preventing some lifeboats from deploying.
Dubbed "Captain Coward" and "Italy's most
hated man" in the tabloids for apparently abandoning ship while passengers
were still on board, Schettino is currently on trial in the Tuscan town of
On Monday, he told the court that the ship's Indonesian
helmsman was to blame for causing the accident, after misunderstanding a
His defence team also asked permission for experts to go
aboard the wreckage to determine whether technical problems contributed to the
disaster, after reports that some safety mechanisms failed to function,
aggravating the situation.
Schettino, who is on trial for manslaughter and
abandoning ship, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.