di Riccardo D'Andrea
Rome, January 11 - The Italian government on Friday extended by a year the "national emergency" declared after cruise liner Costa Concordia ran aground off Tuscany a year ago killing 32 people. The extension "is necessary to ensure the successful completion of the complex operations of removing and transferring the ship," a cabinet statement said. The emergency was due to expire at the end of this month. The capsized carcass of the ship remains stuck on the side of Giglio Island as workers hurry to clean up the wreckage of Italy's worst maritime disaster since World War II. US-based Titan Salvage and the Italian firm Micoperi aim to remove it in time for Giglio's summer tourism season. The captain of the Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino, is facing possible indictment for multiple manslaughter, abandoning his post before the evacuation of all 4,200 passengers and crew had been completed and failing to communicate properly with the maritime authorities. Coastguard commander Gregorio De Falco, who ordered Schettino to "get back on board, dammit", was recently reported to be mulling a possible run in next month's general election for outgoing Premier Mario Monti. Schettino, dubbed 'captain coward' by the Italian media, is suing the Costa Crociere company for alleged unfair dismissal and writing a book aimed at explaining how he allegedly averted an even greater disaster. Schettino has apologised for being "distracted" when his ship capsized on January 13 after hitting a rock while sailing close to Giglio to 'salute' local residents, stressing he was not at the command of the ship. The prosecutor handling the case said Schettino told "embarrassing lies" when giving his account of his handling of the ship on a TV programme.