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Workers to pump oil from grounded ship Saturday

GIGLIO, Italy (AP) — A barge carrying a crane and other equipment hitched itself to the toppled Costa Concordia on Tuesday, signaling the start of preliminary operations to remove a half-million gallons of fuel from the grounded cruise ship before it leaks into the pristine Tuscan sea.

Actual pumping of the oil isn’t expected to begin until Saturday, but teams from the Dutch shipwreck salvage firm Smit were working on the bow of the Concordia on Tuesday and divers were to make underwater inspections to identify the precise locations of the fuel tanks.

They were at work on the now-hitched Meloria barge as divers who blasted through a submerged section of the third-floor deck located another body from the wreckage, bringing the death toll to 16.

The Concordia ran aground and capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio on Jan. 13 after the captain veered from his approved course and gashed the ship’s hull on a reef, forcing the panicked evacuation of 4,200 passengers and crew.

The 16 bodies found so far include the one located on the third-floor deck Tuesday. Seven of the badly decomposed bodies remain unidentified and are presumed to be among some of the 17 passengers and crew still unaccounted for. On Tuesday, the U.S. ambassador to Italy David Thorne was at Giglio’s port where he had lunch with relatives of two missing Americans, Gerald and Barbara Heil of Minnesota.

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