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Woman's body found in ship search

Divers have found a woman's body in a submerged section of the grounded Costa Concordia, raising the death toll in the cruise liner tragedy to at least 12.

Italian Coast Guard commander Cosimo Nicastro said that the body, wearing a life jacket, was found in a narrow corridor near an evacuation staging point at the rear of the ship.

The body was taken to Giglio, the Tuscan island where the vessel hit a reef and ran aground on January 14.

Twenty people are still missing.

Cmdr Nicastro said the woman's body was found during a particularly risky search. "The corridor was very narrow, and the divers' lines risked snagging" on objects in the passageway, he said.

To help coastguard divers get into the area, Italian navy divers had preceded them, setting off charges to blast holes for easier entrance and exit, he added.

The woman's nationality and identity were not immediately known.

Before the body was found, 21 people were listed as missing, one of them a Peruvian woman crew member, the others passengers.

Three bodies were found in the water near the ship in the first hours after the accident. Since then the other victims have all been found inside the Concordia, apparently unable to get off the ship during a chaotic evacuation via lifeboats and later by helicopters. Some survivors jumped off and swam to safety.

The Concordia hit a reef and ran aground a week ago, while passengers dined, about two hours after the ship had set sail from the port of Civitavecchia on the Tyrrhenian Sea.