GIGLIO, Italy, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Italian officials said Tuesday they are discontinuing the search for 15 people believed missing in parts of the Costa Concordia that are under water.
So far searchers have recovered the bodies of 17 people who died after the cruise ship ran aground Jan. 13 off the Tuscan island of Giglio, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
Officials said they were ending underwater search operations but will continue looking for victims in areas of the ship that are semi-submerged.
They said the priority now is to avert an environmental disaster by allowing salvage teams to extract the ship's fuel before it starts leaking into the water, ANSA reported.
Officials estimate it will take up to 10 months to remove the ship.
There was no estimate on how long the fuel draining operation would take. Its start has been delayed by bad weather.