Passengers ponder compensation

The luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia lays on its starboard side Jan. 13 after it ran aground off the coast of the Isola del Giglio island, Italy. Representatives of the ship operator met with consumer activists Thursday to discuss compensation for passengers who suffered no physical harm.

The luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia lays on its starboard side Jan. 13 after it ran aground off the coast of the Isola del Giglio island, Italy. Representatives of the ship operator met with consumer activists Thursday to discuss compensation for passengers who suffered no physical harm. Photo by The Associated Press.

BERLIN (AP) — Herbert Greszuk was at the bar on the fifth deck of the Costa Concordia when the ill-fated luxury liner hit a reef.

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Italian Navy scuba divers gesture Thursday as they return from the Costa Concordia. Salvage experts worked Thursday so they could begin pumping tons of fuel off the ship starting Saturday to avert an environmental catastrophe.

Unable to get back to his second-deck cabin after the emergency signal came, he made it to a lifeboat with only the clothes on his back — leaving behind everything he had with him for the cruise, including his tuxedo, camera, jewelry, $520 in cash, credit cards, identity papers and even his dentures.

The 62-year-old, who runs a small flower shop and cafe in the western German town of Recklinghausen, counts himself lucky to have escaped the ship after it capsized Jan. 13, but estimates that he lost at least $13,000 in goods alone.

He’s only one of the 4,200 passengers and crew who were on board and will likely want compensation, and material loss just scratches the surface. There’s the ruined holiday, physical and mental trauma, and payments to families of the dead, among other things, in an incident many believe was preventable.

“It’s about accountability, “Greszuk told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his cafe. “Something like this must not be allowed to happen again. So many people died; it’s simply inexcusable.”

In Rome on Thursday, representatives of ship operator Costa Crociere SpA met with consumer activists to discuss a blanket compensation deal for some 3,206 people from 61 countries who suffered no physical harm when the ship hit the reef.

The offer would consider the price of the ticket, costs incurred in getting home after the disaster, the cost of items lost aboard the ship as well as damages for the ruined vacation and trauma resulting from the accident, said Furio Truzzi of the consumer group Assoutenti.

The offer would not apply to the hundreds of crew on the ship, the roughly 100 cases of people injured or the families who lost loved ones. Sixteen bodies have been recovered so far, while another 16 people are still missing and feared dead.

“We are working for a collective transaction to come up with a value for damages,” Truzzi said. “Each passenger can decide if this proposal is satisfactory. If it is not, they are free to react through a lawyer.”

Truzzi said it was premature to discuss exact amounts of compensation. He said it would be an average and that any passenger who deemed his or her losses greater than the offer was free to counter the proposal.

He said Assoutenti would work separately on a proposal for those who lost loved ones in the disaster and was open to working with crew members.

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