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Two French among Costa Concordia dead, captain prosecuted

Reuters/Remo Casilli

Two French passengers and a Peruvian crew member died when the cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground off the Tuscany coast on Friday night. The captain, who has been charged with manslaughter, left the boat well before the passengers, investigators say.

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Rescue workers on Sunday morning said they had heard a voice from the part of the boat above water, as divers and specialised cavers checked the cabins in the hope of finding survivors.

About 250 passengers were taken to the French port of Marseille by bus on Saturday night.

There were 989 Italians, 569 Germans, 462 French people, 177 Spaniards and 129 Americans among the 3,206 passengers.

A couple of Korean honeymooners were found and rescued overnight and about 40 of the 4,229 people on board remained missing Sunday morning.

“They were in their cabin. We still don’t understand why,” spokesperson Luca Carli told the AFP news agency.

A hotline has been set up for families of passengers by the French government: +33 1 4317 5644; and by the cruise company: +33 1 5547 5555.

Firefighters said the accident cut power on the ship, causing doors that are opened with electronic badges to lock automatically.

Rescuers worked on the unsubmerged part of the boat overnight but had to wait until daylight to resume work under water.

The three people who were killed, whose bodies are in the morgue at Orbetello, a mainland town opposite Giglio island off which the Costa Concordia ran aground, died because they jumped into the cold waters of the Mediterranean.

About 40 people are reported injured, two of them seriously. Most of them suffered broken limbs or hypothermia.

“Once we were in the lifeboats, we couldn’t pull away from the ship because no-one could tow us. We felt as if it was all going to fall on us,” Joëlle, a passenger, told RFI. “You couldn’t see the crew really working … everything was stuck … [the crew] couldn’t turn the handles. We were stuck on the upper decks for more than an hour; a lot of time was lost before we could get into the lifeboats.”

Captain Francesco Schettino was arrested Saturday for culpable homicide. He left the boat well before all the passengers had been evacuated, prosecutor Francesco Verusio told the SkyTG24 news channel.

The ship was “not on the right course” and the captain was on the bridge and “therefore responsible for operations”, he said.

The investigation is also trying to find out if other people apart from Schettino and number two Ciro Ambrosio shared responsibility.

Many passengers have accused the crew of being poorly prepared but Verusio said, "It was rather the system of command which did not function as it should have done.

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