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Audio of Costa Concordia captain making 'excuses' during evacuation

Divers located five more bodies, all of them adults wearing life jackets, in the rear of the ship near an emergency evacuation point.

The Costa Concordia lies on its side after running aground. Italian navy divers yesterday exploded holes in the hull of the ship to speed up the search for 29 missing passengers and crew.
The Costa Concordia lies on its side after running aground. Italian navy divers yesterday exploded holes in the hull of the ship to speed up the search for 29 missing passengers and crew.

ROME // Five more bodies were pulled out of the crippled cruise ship off Tuscany yesterday, and an audio emerged in which the ship's captain was heard making what has been claimed to be excuses as a coastguard repeatedly ordered him to return to the vessel and oversee the evacuation.

Prosecutors have accused Captain Francesco Schettino of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship before all passengers were evacuated during the grounding of the Costa Concordia cruise ship on Friday night.

The death toll rose to 11 yesterday when divers located five more bodies, all of them adults wearing life jackets, in the rear of the ship near an emergency evacuation point, according to Italian Coast Guard Cmdr Cosimo Nicastro. He said they were thought to have been passengers.

Before the discovery of the five bodies, the coastguard had raised the number of missing to 25 passengers and four crew. Italian officials gave the breakdown as: 14 Germans, six Italians, four French, two Americans, one Hungarian, one Indian and one Peruvian.

But there was still confusion over the numbers, and the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin listed 12 Germans as confirmed missing.

The Costa Concordia was carrying more than 4,200 people when it hit a reef off the Tuscan island of Giglio when Capt Schettino made an unauthorised deviation from the cruise ship's programmed course, apparently as a favour to his chief waiter, who hailed from the island.

Capt Schettino has insisted that he stayed aboard until the ship was evacuated. However, a recording of his conversation with Italian Coast Guard Capt Gregorio De Falco that emerged yesterday indicates he fled before all passengers were off - and then resisted Capt De Falco's repeated orders to return.

"You go on board and then you will tell me how many people there are. Is that clear?" Capt De Falco shouted in the audio tape.

Capt Schettino resisted, saying the ship was tipping and that it was dark. At the time, he was in a lifeboat and said he was coordinating the rescue from there.

Capt De Falco shouted back: "And so what? You want to go home, Schettino? It is dark and you want to go home? Get on that prow of the boat using the pilot ladder and tell me what can be done, how many people there are and what their needs are. Now."

"You go aboard. It is an order. Don't make any more excuses. You have declared 'Abandon ship,' now I am in charge," Capt De Falco shouted.

Capt Schettino was finally heard agreeing to reboard on the tape. But the coastguard has said he did not go back, and the coastguard had police arrest him on land.

Capt Schettino is a native of Meta di Sorrento in the Naples area, which produces many of Italy's ferry and cruise boat captains. A judge was to decide yesterday if Capt Schettino should stay jailed, as requested by prosecutors. He could face up to 12 years in prison on the abandoning ship charge alone.

Yesterday, lawyers for the captain denied allegations that he had abandoned ship. "The captain defended his role on the direction of the ship after the collision, which in the captain's opinion saved hundreds if not thousands of lives," lawyer Bruno Leporatti said. "The captain specified that he did not abandon ship."

Earlier yesterday, Italian naval divers exploded holes in the hull of the ship, trying to speed up the search. A navy spokesman told Sky TV 24 the holes would help divers enter the wreck more easily. "We are rushing against time," he said.