Costa Concordia: As Hope Fades for More Survivors, Finger-Pointing Begins

My piece on the Costa Concordia, one week later, has just been published in Time.

As hope fades for the successful rescue of the 20 people still missing a week after the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, the focus of operations on the Italian island of Giglio is shifting towards the prevention of future catastrophe and the allocation of blame for that which has already occurred. With some 500,000 gallons of fuel oil still sloshing around in the hull of the ship, “We need to prevent an environmental disaster,” says Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, who is coordinating the emergency response. He added that while the agency wasn’t giving up rescue attempts, the risk of rupture of the ship’s fuel tanks was becoming an increasingly important worry.

Rescuers have been investigating whether the ship can be chained to the rocks on which it capsized last week, to halt its slow slippage towards deep waters, which would dramatically complicate further salvage efforts. The consequences of an oil spill would be disastrous. The mayor of Giglio has called the ship an “ecological time bomb.” The potential for pollution puts at risk not only the area around the tiny Mediterranean island, but also the entirety of the nearby coast of Tuscany, one of the engines of Italian tourism. On Saturday, light oil was discovered floating near the Concordia, but rescue workers speculated it may have been diesel from rescue boats or lubricant from some of the on board machinery, not the heavy engine oil that could spell environmental devastation.

Read the rest.