Workers Suspend Cruise Ship Rescue Operations

Posted January 16th, 2012 at 8:45 am (UTC-5)
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Rescue workers suspended operations Monday aboard a stricken cruise ship off the coast of Italy, after the huge vessel slipped on its rocky resting place in bad weather. Six people are known dead and at least 14 others remain missing as a result of the accident, which the ship’s owners are blaming on human error by its captain.

Authorities at the wreck site said they were monitoring the stability of the Costa Concordia, which is lying on its starboard side on a rocky shoal. Officials could not predict when rescue operations will resume.

The cruise ship with more than 4,000 people on board ran aground late Friday off the northern Italian coast. Survivors describe a chaotic and terrifying scene. Some say there was no organization, while others jumped into the icy water and swam to shore.

In Genoa, meanwhile, a spokesman for ship owner Costa Crociere said the ship’s captain was steering on an “unauthorized, unapproved” course before it became stuck. Pier Luigi Foschi said the captain had steered too close to shore and made decisions during the emergency that did not follow company procedures set by international standards. In comments late Sunday, the company did not specify what faulty decisions were made.

Ship captain Francesco Schettino is currently in police custody. Prosecutors say he could face charges of multiple homicide and abandoning the ship before all its passengers were rescued.

When the ship hit the rocks, officials say, passengers were instructed to put on life jackets and to board life rafts. However, those on board said the ship tilted so sharply and quickly that many lifeboats could not be lowered into the water.

The Costa Concordia is 290 meters long, with 13 decks. It has 13 bars, five restaurants, four swimming pools and 500 balconied staterooms. The ship and its operating company are a part of the Carnival Corporation.