Image: Flowers thrown by family members of missing victims from the Costa Concordia cruise ship which ran aground off the west coast of Italy, float near the Costa Concordia at Giglio island
Giampiero Sposito  /  Reuters
Roses float near the Costa Concordia wreck Feb. 13 after being tossed into the sea by family members of those still missing. Seventeen people died after the cruise ship crashed into rocks off the coast of Italy on Jan. 13, and 15 remain missing and are presumed dead.
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updated 2/13/2012 7:11:06 PM ET 2012-02-14T00:11:06

Tossing bouquets of red roses into the sea, the relatives of people still missing one month after the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster mourned in a private tribute Monday.

The family members boarded a small boat that took them about 50 yards from the stricken cruise ship, which struck a reef Jan. 13 off the Tuscan coast when its captain made an unauthorized maneuver. Seventeen people died while trying to flee and 15 remain missing and are presumed dead.

The search for the missing was called off after authorities determined it was too risky for the rescue divers.

Among family members at the scene of the tragedy was Susy Albertini, the mother of 5-year-old Dayana Arlotti, who was traveling with her father William, who is also missing. Kevin Rebello, the brother of a missing waiter from India, also attended, as did the families of missing French and German passengers.

The relatives hugged each other as the roses floated on the Mediterranean. Rebello said Monday's anniversary was the hardest day yet since the shipwreck.

"I haven't lost hope yet, anything can still happen, a miracle. He may be injured, he may have lost consciousness, anything may have happened. I still have hope, I always have hope, hope is the last thing to die," Rebello said. "I hope I will find him as soon as possible, to bring him home."

Dayana Arlotti was on the cruise with her father and his girlfriend, who survived the tragedy. William and Dayana disappeared after they returned to the cabin to get medicine for his severe diabetes, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported. Family members seeking news called his cell phone for days after the tragedy until it stopped ringing on the fifth day.

A statue of the Virgin Mary was retrieved from the ship and donated by the Costa Crociere SpA cruise company that owns the Concordia. It was placed in the main port church for a memorial Mass held later Monday. Along with relatives of the missing, Costa CEO Pier Luigi Foschi attended the service.

"The feeling that has always been with me during these 30 days and today is sorrow. Sorrow for those who died, for those who are missing," said the Rev. Lorenzo Pasquotti.

After weeks of delays due to bad weather, underwater pumping operations began Sunday to remove some of the 500,000 gallons of fuel aboard the ship, which has threatened to turn the human tragedy into an environmental disaster. Crews on Monday emptied the first of 15 tanks that are believed to hold around 84 percent of the fuel on board, Italy's civil protection department said.

Officials say it will take 28 consecutive days of pumping to empty the tanks.

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There have been no reports so far of heavy fuel leaking into the pristine waters off the tiny island of Giglio, which are part of a protected sanctuary for dolphins, whales and proposes.

The Concordia had 4,200 people on board when it slammed into a reef off Giglio after the captain deviated from the ship's planned course in an apparent stunt. Passengers have said the captain then delayed sounding the evacuation alarm until the ship listed so heavily that lifeboats on one side couldn't be lowered.

The captain, Francesco Schettino, is under house arrest, accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all the passengers had been evacuated.

Italian officials have said it will take seven to ten months after the fuel is pumped out for salvage experts to remove the ship from the shore.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Italy calls off Costa Concordia search

  1. Closed captioning of: Italy calls off Costa Concordia search

    >>> in italy tonight, officials there say they have called off the search for missing people in the submerged portion of that costa concordia vessel because it's just become too dangerous for the divers on the job. they'll continue to search the portion above the water line and around the coastline. 16 people are still listed, remember, as officially m lly missing. that includes an american couple from minnesota. 15 people

Photos: Luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia runs aground

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  1. People on lifeboats evacuate the Costa Concordia after it ran aground on Jan. 13, 2012, killing 32 people. The cruise ship is the subject of the biggest salvage operation in maritime history (Giuseppe Modesti / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Passengers arrive at Porto Santo Stefano on Jan. 14 after the Costa Concordia ran aground off the Italian island of Giglio. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Costa Concordia cruise liner captain Francesco Schettino is escorted by Italian police on Jan. 14, 2012, in Grosseto. Schettino was arrested on charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship, police said. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Firefighters on a dinghy look at a rock emerging from the side of the Costa Concordia on Jan. 15, 2012. (Andrea Sinibaldi / Lapresse via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A woman looks at the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise liner on Jan. 16, 2012. (Gregorio Borgia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A satellite image shows the wreck of the Costa Concordia off the island of Giglio on Jan. 17, 2012. (DigitalGlobe) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Search and rescue teams continue the search for survivors on the Costa Concordia on Jan. 19, 2012. (Tullio M. Puglia / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Police divers look at the bell of the stricken Costa Concordia luxury liner during their underwater search on Jan. 19, 2012. (Carabinieri via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Divers make their way into a flooded cabin of the Costa Concordia cruise ship In this undated photo released by the Italian Navy on Jan. 24, 2012. (Italian Navy / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship lies off the snow-covered island of Giglio on Feb. 11, 2012. (Giampiero Sposito / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A boy prepares to snorkel in front of the wreckage of the capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia on Aug. 28, 2012. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. The Costa Concordia cruise ship lays near the harbor of Giglio on Oct. 14, 2012. The luxury cruise ship capsized and sank on Jan. 13, 2012, after approaching the Tuscan island of Giglio to perform a manuever close to the shore known as a "salute." (Filippo Monteforte / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Workers stand on the Costa Concordia cruise ship near the port on Jan. 8, 2013 on the Italian island of Giglio. (Filippo Monteforte / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. An aerial view, taken from an Italian Navy helicopter, shows the Costa Concordia surrounded by other vessels on Aug. 26. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A diver participates in a search operation Sept. 24, 2013, for two missing bodies onboard the Costa Concordia. The last two missing bodies were recovered on Sept. 26. (Laura Lezza / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Vessels surround the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship during an operation to refloat the boat on July 14, 2014 off the Italian island of Giglio. More than two-and-a-half years after it crashed off in a nighttime disaster which left 32 people dead, the plan is to raise and tow the vessel in an unprecedented and delicate operation for its final journey to the shipyard where it was built in the port of Genoa. (Vincenzo Pinto / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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