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Italy president demands justice for cruise victims

Published:Sunday | February 12, 2012 | 2:28 AM

ROME (AP) — Italy's president and top bishop demanded justice Sunday for the victims of the cruise ship that ran aground last month off Tuscany, calling for the truth of what transpired to come out.

During a memorial service for the victims and their families, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco thanked the residents of the tiny island of Giglio who opened their doors to the 4,200 passengers and crew who came ashore Jan. 13 after the Costa Concordia capsized.

The captain, Francesco Schettino, is under house arrest, accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all the passengers had been evacuated. He took the ship off course and ran it into a reef off Giglio, gashing its hull and causing it to lurch and run aground.

At least 17 people died and 15 are missing and presumed dead.

In his homily, Bagnasco said: "Let the light of the Lord help bring about truth and justice, let wounds be healed and let trust and courage for the future be reinforced."

President Giorgio Napolitano, who attended the service at Rome's St. Mary of the Angels basilica, said he was sorry that what transpired "was the responsibility of Italy and Italians."

"We must continue to investigate," he told reporters outside the basilica. "Prosecutors deserve respect for the job they're doing."

Another memorial service, falling on the one-month commemoration of the grounding, was planned for Monday in Giglio itself just as indications rise that the oft-delayed operation to remove some of the 500,000 gallons of fuel from the ship's tanks might soon begin.

An oil tanker which would presumably store the extracted fuel neared the Concordia for the first time Sunday. Officials said they expected that the relatively calm weather conditions Sunday and Monday could mean the fuel pumping operation could begin.