14 Feb 2012

Fuel being pumped off Costa Concordia

6:16 am on 14 February 2012

Salvage workers have begun pumping fuel from the cruise liner Costa Concordia, which hit a reef and capsized off the island of Giglio on the Tuscan coast nearly a month ago.

Seventeen people died when the ship capsized and 15 more are presumed dead.

Pumping had been delayed by both the search and rescue operation and bad weather, prompting fears of a leak into the protected waters off the island, the BBC reports.

The ship's tanks hold more than 2300 tonnes of oil and diesel and environmentalists say a leak would be disastrous for the waters around the island of Giglio.

The captain, Francesco Schettino, has been accused in Italy of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship before all those aboard were evacuated.

Prosecutors in France have also launched an investigation, given that four French nationals died and two others are among the missing. The captain denies wrongdoing.

Dutch salvage company Smit is conducting the operation to pump out the fuel, which is expected to take about four weeks to complete.