Cruise Ship Wreck Rescuers Race Against Clock - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Cruise Ship Wreck Rescuers Race Against Clock

MSNBC.COM - A scuba team is prepared to go inside the wrecked Italian cruise liner, according to NBC News' Michelle Kosinski.

The recovery team is racing against the clock to complete the search for victims of the disaster before the weather turns and salvage crews need to start pumping fuel from the wreck. The search is expected to focus on the fourth deck, around an evacuation assembly point where seven of the bodies found so far were located. Kosinski reports that the search team has been using sonar to look at the sea floor as well.

One of the specialist diving crews said on Thursday the available window to complete the search could be as small as 12-24 hours although the chief spokesman of the rescue services denied that any deadline had been set and said the situation was still evolving.

The Costa Serena, the sister ship of the Costa Concordia, passed the partially-sunken liner on Wednesday evening. International cruise goers put on a brave face as Costa's first Mediterranean tour since last week's tragedy set sail out of the same port near Rome as the doomed luxury liner.

Meanwhile, a new audiotape emerged Thursday of the first contact between Livorno port officials and the Costa Concordia — and the captain is heard insisting that his cruise ship only had a blackout a full 30 minutes after it had rammed into a reef.

The recording between Capt. Francesco Schettino and port officials began at 10:12 p.m. Friday, more than 30 minutes after the ship violently hit a reef and panicked passengers had fled the dining room to get their lifejackets.

Recordings of Schettino's conversations with coast guard officials after the ship crashed on its side have shown how he resisted repeated orders to return on board to oversee the evacuation.

In the recording, Schettino is heard assuring the officer that he was checking out the reasons for the blackout. But he doesn't volunteer that the ship had hit a reef.

Rather, the port officer tells Schettino that his agency had heard from a relative of one of ship's sailors that "during dinner everything fell on their heads." That was an apparent reference to the plates and glasses that slammed down onto passengers in the main dining room.

"We are verifying the conditions on board," Schettino replies. Asked if passengers had been told to put on life jackets, he responds: "Correct."

Crew members and passengers have said Schettino ate dinner with a woman in the ship's restaurant Friday and was reportedly with her as the ship started listing off the island of Giglio.

Italian news reports say prosecutors want to speak to Dominica Cermotan of Moldova. Cermotan says in a Facebook post that she was with Schettino on deck along with other officers and the cruise director. She defended Schettino, telling Moldova's Jurnal TV that "he did a great thing, he saved over 3,000 lives."

Crew members returning home have begun speaking out about the chaotic evacuation, saying the captain sounded the alarm too late and didn't give orders or instructions about how to evacuate passengers. Eventually, crew members started lowering lifeboats on their own. click here to read more

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