Costa Concordia Cleanup of 500,000 Gallons of Fuel Under Way

Underwater pumping operations began on Sunday to remove the 500,000 gallons of fuel left aboard Italian cruise ship the Costa Concordia, which sank last month, killing 32 people. 

The operation to extract the 500,000 gallons of fuel left inside the Costa Concordia, the largest Italian cruise ship ever made, began nearly a month after the ship sunk off the Italian coast of Tuscany. The cruise liner cost $570 million to build.

Bad weather and rocky seas caused a delay in the operation, which officials believe will take 28 days to complete.

"We expect the next five days to be good weather, and we will work 24 hours a day to pump out fuel," Bart Huizing, of the Dutch firm Smit that is overseeing the operation, told The Associated Press.

"Hopefully by the end of the week we will have the majority out," he added, referring to tanks located on the front of the ship, which are carrying up to 85 percent of the total fuel.

The cruise liner sank off the coast of Italy on Jan. 13, killing 32 people after veering off its official route. The ship struck a rock in the Tyrrhenian Sea near the western coast of Italy.

Around 4,200 people escaped the wreck but dozens of bodies remain unaccounted for.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano expressed his condolences at a Sunday memorial mass held in Rome for the victims of the disaster.

"It was a tragedy and I express regret for whatever responsibility there was, Italian and by Italians," the president said.

The captain of the cruse ship, Francesco Schettino, is currently under house arrest and is facing charges of manslaughter over the disaster. Schettino abandoned the ship in the wake of the disaster before all the passengers and crew were evacuated.