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MOSCOW, January 17 (Itar-Tass) — More than half of Russians who were on the wrecked cruise ship Costa Concordia have already returned to their homeland. The return of the remaining 90 percent of Russian tourists staying in Italy is expected on Tuesday evening, press secretary of the Russian Union of Travel Industry (RST) Irina Tyurina told Itar-Tass.
“At this point we can say that just over half of Russian tourists have returned home from Italy: they are residents of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod,” she said, adding that “on Sunday, January 15, a total of 9 people arrived in Russia, on Monday, January 16 another 27 tourists came during the day, and 27 more tourists were supposed to arrive late on Monday.” “As many as 17 Russians from 32 St. Petersburg residents who were on the ship arrived by different flights to St. Petersburg on Monday. The rest are expected to return by Wednesday,” she added.
Tyurina stressed that “by Tuesday evening, about 90 percent of the Russians staying in this country are to arrive in Russia, and the remaining 10 percent (19 people) have decided to fly home on January 18-21.” The RST press secretary stressed that “they are the people who decided to take their return flights for which they had bought tickets before the trip to Italy.”
According to Tyurina, “the tourists have no problems with the departures.” The head of the international cooperation department of the Russian Federal Tourism Agency (Rosturizm), Valery Korovkin, confirmed to Itar-Tass this information. He noted that “Rosturizm has received no complaints or appeals from Russian passengers of the Costa Concordia sunken cruise ship.” He also promised that “if the Russians have any problems, the department will try to solve them.”
According to Tyurina, “the Russians are well, they have been walking around Rome, resting.”
According to the RST, there were 117 Russian tourists and three crew members who have Russian citizenship on board the Costa Concordia ship that wrecked off the Italian coast on January 13. The vessel ran aground at Isola del Giglio, Tuscany, resulting in the evacuation of 4,211 people on board. At least six people were killed, including five passengers and one crewman, 64 others were injured (three seriously), two passengers and a crewmember trapped below deck have been rescued. As of 16 January 2012 around 29 people had not been accounted for.
The captain and first officer have been arrested on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter after sailing much closer to the shore than allowed. The Costa Concordia entered service for Costa Cruises in July 2006 as the largest ship built in Italy at the time, measuring 114,500 GT, 290.2 metres (952 ft) long, and costing 450 million euros (US$569 million). It is the largest passenger shipwreck in history. Industry analysts believe the vessel is a constructive total loss.
Some passengers had jumped into the water to swim to shore, while others, ready to evacuate the vessel, were delayed by crew members up to 45 minutes, as they resisted immediately lowering the lifeboats. Three people reportedly drowned after jumping overboard, and another seven were critically injured. Local fire chief Ennio Aquilino said his men, “plucked 100 people from the water and saved around 60 others who were trapped in the boat.”
On 14 January divers searched the waters until 18:00 then stopped for the night. Divers and fire fighters continued to search for survivors who may be trapped in the ship, and rescued a Korean newlywed couple trapped in a cabin two decks above the water line, and a crewman with a broken leg. One diver stated that in their rescue process, they would find a path into the ship and tie down obstacles such as mattresses, before making noise to alert trapped people.
Six people including five passengers and one crew member are known to have died, and sixty-four others were injured. More than 24 hours after the accident, three people (two passengers and a crewman) trapped below deck were rescued. Six crew members and eleven passengers are still unaccounted for as rescue workers continued to search the partly submerged ship. The ship’s “black box” - which ‘logged [the] ship’s movements and conversations between crew” - was also recovered. When the search for survivors and bodies is completed, a Dutch salvage firm will remove the vessel’s fuel.
Fifty-two-year-old Captain Francesco Schettino, who has worked for Costa Cruises for eleven years, and the ship’s first officer have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and abandoning ship before passengers were evacuated. They were questioned on 14 January 2012. Officials are trying to determine why the ship did not issue a mayday and why it was navigating so close to the coast. “At the moment we can’t exclude that the ship had some kind of technical problem, and for this reason moved towards the coast in order to save the passengers, the crew and the ship. But they didn't send a mayday,” said officer Emilio Del Santo of the Coastal Authorities of Livorno, “The ship got in contact with us once the evacuation procedures were already ongoing.”