Nightly News   |  January 18, 2012

Costa Concordia fuel tanks at risk

The shifting ship is creating dangerous problems for the searchers who need to blast holes in the hull. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now we go overseas to italy and the disaster at sea. tonight, five days after the accident aboard the " costa concordia ," search and recovery efforts around the shipwreck for the more than 20 still missing are on hold because of safety concerns, and a big european weather system is moving in. that could mean big waves, and another satellite view to show you tonight, the incredible photo of the wreck as seen from space. nbc's michelle kosinski has our report from the scene tonight.

>> reporter: all the work today had to be above the waterline, dropping huge hoses onto the ship, preparing to pump out half a million gallons of fuel, which can't happen until searchers finish, the plan is to blast four more holes into "concordia's hull" today and find more bodies of the missing. yesterday they were able to plunge the depths of the once grand ship. it's lit now by search lights. today, the dangerously shifting vessel would not let them. perched on rocks above a slope that drops 200 feet, the families of the unaccounted for, their photos hung in town, must also wait.

>> i'm looking for my brother russel.

>> reporter: russel rebello, a waiter from india, who was last seen helping passengers escape on lifeboats.

>> i'm very proud of him.

>> reporter: the captain many are calling the most hated man in italy, francesco schettino, seen here greeting passengers before the voyage. he says he hopes it will be an unforgettable journey for them. friday night after he took the ship off course, hit rock and left before desperate passengers did, he insisted to the furious port authority he did not abandon ship and reportedly told prosecutors he tripped and fell right into a lifeboat.

>> he will go one day in a prison for a long time.

>> reporter: still industry analysts using satellite data say schettino took a virtually identical route last year which they say was authorized and charted.

>> must have come perilously close, i mean possibly within touching distance.

>> reporter: schettino may have had reason to believe this path was safe. tonight what is really threatening the search, the stability of the ship and the fuel situation are waves, tonight expected to reach six feet high, storms on the way. it's been tough for everyone to look at this day after day and know they're losing time. brian?

>> michelle kosinski on the italian coast with the wreckage right there behind her tonight, michelle, thanks.