18 Jan 2012

Salvage work set to begin on Concordia

10:00 pm on 18 January 2012

Salvage work is expected to begin on an Italian cruise ship on Wednesday, but hopes are fading that any more survivors will be found.

The Costa Concordia crashed into rocks near the island of Giglo off Italy's west coast on Friday night before capsizing.

The 114,500-tonne vessel, carrying 4200 passengers and crew, had its hull ripped open just hours after leaving the port of Civitavecchia for a week-long Mediterranean cruise, the BBC reports.

Some people were forced to swim for shore as the angle of the ship made launching lifeboats impossible.

Eleven bodies have been recovered so far and at least 20 people are missing.

Divers suspended their search for bodies on Wednesday morning (local time) after the vessel shifted slightly on its resting place. The Fire Service says the shift of a few centimetres poses a potential threat to teams operating in submerged spaces of the ship.

Rescuers have been through almost all of the ship that remains above the water line and experts believe there is little risk of a major fuel leak.

Along with the salvage workers - who will begin operations once rescue efforts have been declared over - a specialist team from Dutch salvage company SMIT is to start drilling through the ship towards the 17 tanks that hold more than 2000 tonnes of fuel.

The company says this could take several weeks.

The 52-year-old captain, Francesco Schettino, is under house arrest, accused of causing the crash. His lawyer says his client is innocent.