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Woman's body found aboard stricken Italian cruise ship

NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

Updated at 11:10 a.m. ET: GIGLIO, Italy -- Italian Coast Guard divers on Saturday found a woman's body in a corridor of a submerged section of the capsized Costa Concordia, raising to at least 12 the number of dead in the cruise liner accident.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Cosimo Nicastro told The Associated Press that the victim, who was wearing a life vest, was found during a particularly risky inspection of an evacuation staging point at the ship's rear.

"The corridor was very narrow, and the divers' lines risked snagging" on objects in the passageway, Nicastro said. To permit the coast guard divers to get into the area, Italian navy divers had preceded them, setting off charges to blast holes for easier entrance and exit, he said.

The woman's nationality and identity were not immediately known.

The body was brought to Giglio, the Tuscan island where the cruise liner hit a reef and ran aground on Jan. 14. Twenty people remain missing.

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The Costa Concordia ran aground Jan. 13 off the coast of Italy, resulting in the evacuation of thousands of passengers as the ship began heavily listing.

Search and rescue efforts for survivors and bodies have meant that an operation to remove heavy fuel in the Concordia's tanks hasn't yet begun, although specialized equipment has been standing by for days.

On Saturday, light fuel, apparently from machinery aboard the capsized Costa Concordia, was detected near the ship.

But Nicastro said there was no indication that any of the nearly 500,000 gallons (2,200 metric tons) of heavy fuel oil has leaked from the ship's double-bottomed tanks. He said the leaked substance appears to be diesel, which is used to fuel rescue boats and dinghies and as a lubricant for ship machinery.

There are 185 tons of diesel and lubricants on board the crippled vessel, which is lying on its side just outside Giglio's port. Nicastro described the light fuel's presence in the sea as "very light, very superficial" and appearing to be under control.


NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

Updated at 9:30 a.m. ET:  The captain of the cruise ship Costa Concordia, which struck a rock and capsized off Italy, told magistrates he informed the ship's owners of the accident immediately, denying he had delayed raising the alarm, judicial sources said on Saturday.

Capt. Francesco Schettino has been blamed for causing the January 13 accident in which at least 11 people died. He is under house arrest, accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship before all passengers were evacuated.

His statements to prosecutors investigating the disaster, reported in the Italian press and confirmed by judicial sources, underline the growing battle between him and Costa Cruise Lines which operates the 114,500 ton vessel. 

According to transcripts of his questioning by prosecutors leaked to Italian media, he said that immediately after hitting the rock he sent two of his officers to the engine room to check on the state of the vessel.

As soon as he realized the scale of the damage, he called Roberto Ferrarini, marine operations director for Costa Cruises.

"I told him: I've got myself into a mess, there was contact with the seabed. I am telling you the truth, we passed under Giglio and there was an impact," Schettino said.

"I can't remember how many times I called him in the following hour and 15 minutes. In any case, I am certain that I informed Ferrarini about everything in real time," he said, adding he had asked the company to send tug boats and helicopters.

Costa Cruises Chief Executive Pier Luigi Foschi says Schettino delayed issuing the SOS and evacuation orders and gave false information to the company headquarters.

"Personally, I think he wasn't honest with us," Foschi told Corriere della Sera Friday. He said the first phone conversation between Schettino and Ferrarini took place 20 minutes after the ship hit the rock.


Published at 5:40 a.m. ET:
Divers resumed the search of the wreckage of the capsized Costa Concordia after data indicated the cruise ship had stabilized in the sea off Tuscany.

Italian coastguard spokesman Cosimo Nicastro told NBC News Saturday that the navy had punctured two holes in the carcass of the ship, which has been lying on its side near the port of Giglio island since shortly after it crashed into a reef on Jan. 13.

Divers were expected to search the area around bridge number four, an emergency meeting point near to where other bodies were found. They had been hoping to reach that area for days, NBC reported.

They are searching for bodies or survivors, although it is unlikely any of the missing in the accident could still be alive. The search was suspended on Friday after the Concordia shifted, prompting fears the ship could roll off a rocky ledge of sea bed and plunge deeper into the sea.

There are also fears the Concordia's fuel could leak, polluting pristine waters.

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The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.