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Italian cruise ship may cause environmental disaster

world Updated: Jan 19, 2012 07:38 IST

IANS
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The Italian government has expressed concern that storms may cause fuel leaks from the cruise liner which ran aground off Italy's western coast.

"The ship is positioned near an escarpment, and may sink into deeper water with consequent further damage of its structure and following leaks from the tanks," Xinhua quoted environment minister Corrado Clini saying in a press conference Wednesday.

"In such case, the environmental damage would be unforeseeable," the minister said, adding 2,400 tonnes of fuels are still inside the 290-meter-long vessel, which although being a cruise liner can be compared to a "small oil tanker".

In fact, over the past 10 years most environmental disasters have been caused by cruise and merchant ships, he noted.

A specialist team from Dutch company SMIT is preparing to pump the fuel from Costa Concordia's 15 tanks, which will take at least two weeks, the minister pointed out.

On Wednesday, salvage work in the capsized cruise liner, which is lying on its side in shallow waters near the Giglio island 25 km off the Tuscany coast, was suspended after the vessel slipped about one metre, local reports said.

As per Italian authorities, 11 people are confirmed dead and 22 still missing days after the cruise liner crashed into rocks last Friday after leaving for a Mediterranean cruise with over 4,200 passengers onboard.

The Costa Concordia's captain, 52-year-old Francesco Schettino, was put under house arrest after being detained with charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship.