GIGLIO, Italy -- It would take a "miracle" to find survivors 12 days after the shipwreck of the Costa Concordia, the Italian official leading rescue operations said Wednesday.
"The time that has passed and the prevailing conditions make one think that finding someone alive would be a miracle," said Italy's Civil Protection Services chief Franco Gabrielli.
"But we will not stop (searching) until the whole ship has been inspected," Gabrielli added, speaking at a news conference on Giglio island.
On Tuesday the death toll from the Jan. 13 accident -- which happened after the ship ran aground after coming too close to the island of Giglio -- rose to 16 when divers found the body of a woman in the half-sunken vessel's third bridge.
Around 20 people remain unaccounted for.
The latest search efforts were being hindered by health risks posed to divers from rotting, organic refuse and waste aboard the half-sunken vessel.
The risk of infection was a problem that "still needs to be solved," Gabrielli said.
The Concordia's owner, Genoa-based Costa Crociere, had been asked by the Civil Protection services to present plans on removing the refuse, but the company had yet to respond, Gabrielli said.
Earlier, divers had resumed their search of the wreck after temporarily halting operations during the morning due to strong winds and rough seas off Giglio, which lies near Italy's western coast.
Meanwhile, preparations for the removal of thousands of tons of potentially hazardous fuel from the Concordia's tanks were still underway, Gabrielli said.
The actual pumping of fuel from the vessel's tanks is not expected to begin before Saturday, Gabrielli said.
The Concordia's captain, Francesco Schettino, remains under house arrest while prosecutors are trying to have him indicted on charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all were evacuated.
He has reportedly admitted to veering the vessel off course, causing it to crash against rocks near Giglio. However, he insists he helped coordinate the evacuation, but was forced to do so from Giglio's docks after slipping off the listing ship into a lifeboat.
More than 4,000 passengers and crew were aboard the ship at the time of the accident.
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