* Recovery work suspended as ship moves
* Ship perched on ledge
* Extracting oil will take at least two weeks
(Adds professor's comments, missing five-year-old)
By Steve Scherer and Gabriele Pileri
GIGLIO, Italy, Jan 20 (Reuters) - The vast wreck of
the cruise ship Costa Concordia shifted on its undersea ledge on
Friday, forcing a new suspension of rescue work and threatening
plans to pump oil out to prevent environmental disaster.
Firefighters' spokesman Luca Cari said rescue squads would
be discussing the next step after the movement made conditions
unsafe for divers already hampered by poor visibility, floating
objects and underwater debris.
Seven days after the 114,500-tonne ship ran aground and
capsized off the Tuscan coast, hopes of finding anyone alive
have all but disappeared and the cold waters around the ship
have become rougher, with worse weather expected at the weekend.
"The ship is slipping about 15 millimetres at the front and
seven millimetres an hour at the back. This is not a lot but it
has to be kept under control," Nicola Costagli, a geophysics
professor who is a consultant to the civil protection
department, told SkyTG24 television.
Attention is now turning to how to remove more than 2,300
tonnes of fuel aboard the vessel, which lies on its side on a
rock shelf in about 20 metres of water off the little island of
Giglio and which could slide off its resting place.
Costagli said the ship was resting on two rocky protrusions,
adding "we have to establish if these two points of support are
Salvage crews are waiting until the search for survivors and
bodies is called off before they can begin pumping the fuel out
of the wreck, a process expected to take at least two weeks.
Environment Minister Corrado Clini told parliament on
Thursday he had instructed the liner's operator, Costa Cruises,
to take all possible measures to anchor the ship to prevent it
from slipping further into the sea.
"If the ship slides, we hope that it doesn't break into
pieces and that the fuel tanks do not open up," he said.
Clini said there was a risk that the ship could sink to 50
to 90 metres below the rock ledge on which it is caught,
creating a major hazard to the environment in one of Europe's
largest natural marine parks.
Eleven people are known to have died out of more than 4,200
passengers and crew aboard when the ship struck a rock just
metres from the shoreline, tearing a large gash in the side of
the hull. As many as 24 are still unaccounted for, although that
number probably includes bodies found but not yet identified.
Rescue workers are still looking for a missing five-year-old
girl and her father.
For graphics, click on
The ship's captain Francesco Schettino has been placed under
house arrest, accused of causing the disaster and then
abandoning ship before the evacuation was complete.
His lawyer says he has admitted bringing the ship too close
to shore but denies sole responsibility and says other factors
may have played a role in the accident.
The ship's operators have suspended him and said they
considered themselves "the damaged party" in the accident, which
industry experts say could turn out to be the biggest maritime
insurance claim in history.
On Thursday, SkyTG24 broadcast a tape of what was described
as a conversation between coastguard officials and the bridge of
the Concordia which appeared to show officers telling
authorities they had suffered only a power cut, more than 30
minutes after the ship's impact with the seabed.
In an interview with the daily Corriere della Sera, the
chief executive of Costa Cruises criticised Schettino for
delaying the order to evacuate and denied that he had faced
pressure to wait because of the potential cost to the company.
"I assure you absolutely that no one thought in financial
terms. That would be a choice that would violate our ethics," he
said. He denied knowledge of captains sailing dangerously close
to shore to provide a spectacle for passengers.
"I can't rule out that individual captains, without
informing us, may have set a course closer to land. However I
can rule out ever having known that they may have done it
unsafely," he said.
The Italian cabinet was to discuss new regulations on Friday
to prevent big cruise ships from taking risky routes and passing
too close to islands or shorelines.
(Additional reporting by Radu Marinas in Bucharest and Silvia
Ognibene in Grosseto; Editing by Andrew Roche)
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