Divers searching the capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship found eight bodies on Wednesday on one of the passenger decks, including that of a missing five-year-old Italian girl, authorities said.
Italy’s national civil protection agency, which is monitoring the operation off a Tuscan island, said four of the bodies had been recovered — those of a woman, a girl, a man and a person whose sex could not immediately be determined. Because of worsening weather, the divers were unable to immediately remove the other four bodies. That operation was set to resume yesterday if seas were calm.
The bodies were being transferred to a hospital on the mainland for identification, a process which could take days. Before Wednesday’s development, 15 people were listed as missing, but only one of them — Dayana Arlotti — was a child.
Dayana Arlotti was on the Mediterranean cruise with her Italian father and his girlfriend. The girlfriend survived, while the father, Williams Arlotti, was among the missing.
The death toll, which includes those missing — presumed dead — and bodies already recovered stands at 32.
Among the missing passengers are an elderly couple from Minnesota, Barbara and Gerald Heil, and Dayana Arlotti’s father. Others are from Germany and France. The one missing crew member is from India.
The father had a history of health problems and was said by the family to be traveling to celebrate a new lease on life — he had received a kidney and pancreas transplant. Some witnesses told media that they last saw him during the evacuation as he headed back to his cabin to retrieve lifesaving medication.
The Concordia, which was carrying about 4,200 passengers and crew, struck a reef off the Tuscan island of Giglio on Jan. 13, took on water and started listing badly until it lay on its side.
Giglio is a tiny island of fishermen and tourist hotels, famed for its pristine waters, coral reefs and a variety of marine life, including whales and dolphins.
Most of the victims were found on the capsized ship in the first two weeks after the accident. Three corpses were recovered from the water a few hours after the accident.
Officials coordinating search efforts said divers on Wednesday went into an area where survivors had told rescuers that some passengers had gathered to await evacuation. Many of the ship’s lifeboats could not be launched after the ship leaned heavily on one side.
Helicopters lowered the divers onto the above-water section of the Concordia.
They then scrambled down the side and swam through openings into the wreckage.
Diving search experts from France, Sweden and Britain have said they plan to meet with the Italian diving teams to lend assistance. Decomposing refuse and floating furniture inside the submerged ship have complicated their work.
In the first days after the accident, Dayana Arlotti’s mother had been quoted as saying she was holding out hope that her little girl somehow survived. After word came on Wednesday that the child’s body had been seen, she was reported to be heading to the hospital where the bodies were being taken.
“I can’t say if the mother was freed from a nightmare or not,” her lawyer, Davide Veschi, told Sky TG24 TV.
The Concordia struck the reef when it veered too close to the island while passengers were having dinner in the ship’s main dining hall.