Two bodies have been found in the hull of the Costa Concordia cruise ship more than a year after it ran aground. Officials believe they could be those of the last victims who remain unaccounted for.
The corpses were discovered on Thursday by scuba divers searching for the last two victims of the accident, which occurred when the Costa Concordia ran aground off the island of Giglio on January 13, 2012.
Officials cautioned that it was still too early to say for sure whether the bodies were those of the only two people who remain unaccounted for, Russel Rebello, an Indian man who worked as a waiter on the ship and Italian passenger Maria Gazia Trecarichi.
However, the head of Italy's Civil Protection agency, Franco Gabrielli, told the SkyTG24 news channel that the corpses found "could be ascribable to the persons we are looking for."
"Only DNA testing will be able to confirm it," Gabrielli added, saying that this would begin in the next few hours. "Nothing is definite, let us wait for the tests."
This comes just a week after the wreck of the Costa Concordia was righted, after lying partially submerged on its side for the past 20 months. It also comes two days after the trial of the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, was adjourned. When it resumes on October 7, two of Schettino's crew members are to become the first witnesses in the case, in which he faces manslaughter and other serious charges. He is accused of taking the cruise ship too close to the island and then mismanaging the evacuation of the vessel.
However, Captain Schettino scored a legal victory earlier this week, when an Italian court accepted a request submitted by his lawyers for the vessel to be re-examined for evidence related to the crash.
The skipper is facing manslaughter and other serious charges for his role in the disaster. Schettino and his defense team claim that he is being made a scapegoat for the crash, while safety issues and mistakes made by others in the wake of the crash were being ignored.
A total of 32 people died in the Costa Concordia disaster, including Rebello and Tecarichi, who, until now have been presumed to have perished. Almost 4,200 people were safely evacuated.
pfd/dr (Reuters, AP, dpa, AFP)