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Death toll from Italian cruise ship disaster rises to 11

January 17, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The death toll from the Italian cruise ship disaster rose to 11 on Tuesday, as a shocking new audio recording between the ship's captain and the Italian Coast Guard emerged.

Rescuers recovered another five bodies. The bodies have not been identified.

The Costa Concordia struck rocks Friday night and capsized, forcing the evacuation of the 4,200 people onboard.

New audio recordings revealed authorities tried to talk Capt. Francesco Schettino into returning to the ship he abandoned, while thousands of passengers and crew members struggled for their lives.

Schettino was mobbed as he came to court on Tuesday, where Italian prosecutors accused him of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and then abandoning ship.

He has not been formally charged but he has been placed on house arrest.

The captain at first said he acted honorably, but taped phone conversations between Schettino and the Italian Port Authority tell the story of a captain who left a sinking ship, along with his senior officers.

The Port Authority officer ordered Schettino to get back on board and said, "There are already bodies, Schettino. Go."

The captain asked, "How many bodies are there?"

"I don't know. I've heard about one, but you must tell me," the officer responded.

Passengers described a free-for-all - pushing and shoving for precious spots on a lifeboat.

Perhaps realizing the scale of the disaster, in another taped recording, Schettino sounded like he changed his story.

"I didn't abandon any ship because the ship turned on its side quickly, and we were catapulted into the water," he said.

The voice on the other line said, "We'll clarify later what actually happened."

More than 20 passengers and crew members are still missing, including vacationers Jerry and Barbara Heil from Minnesota. Cindy Ananias from Downey, who was on the Costa Concordia with her parents and sister, said she's thankful to be alive.

"I feel so bad for the people that didn't survive, or the people they're still looking for," she said. "I think there are more people missing than they say because if you were just there, you could just tell, people were trapped."

A judge has ordered the captain of the ship to be released from jail and confined to his home near Naples under house arrest.

As hope fades of finding survivors, there are fears of an ecological disaster, with half a million gallons of fuel still onboard the ship and rough weather closing in. An extraction firm said it will take up to four weeks to safely remove all the fuel from the ship.

See photos of the Costa Concordia cruise ship wreck.


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