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Ship possibly had unauthorized passengers

GIGLIO, Italy -- Unregistered passengers might have been aboard the stricken cruise liner that grounded off this Tuscan island, a top rescue official said yesterday, raising the possibility that the number of missing might be higher than previously announced.

Divers, meanwhile, pulled out a woman's body from the Costa Concordia, raising to 13 the number of people dead in the Jan. 13 accident.

A civil protection official told reporters the victim was wearing a life vest and was found in the rear of a submerged portion of the ship by a team of fire department divers.

Italian authorities raised the possibility that the real number of the missing was unknown because some unregistered passengers might have been aboard.

As of yesterday, 19 people are listed as missing, but that number could be higher.

"There could have been X persons who we don't know about who were inside, who were clandestine" passengers aboard the ship, Franco Gabrielli, the national civil protection official in charge of the rescue effort, told reporters at a briefing on the island of Giglio.

But one of Concordia's officers, who's recovering from a broken leg suffered during the evacuation, dismissed the allegation that such passengers were on the ship.

"Everyone is registered and photographed. Everything's electronic," the Italian news agency ANSA quoted Manrico Giampedroni as saying.

The ship, with 4,200 people aboard, rammed a reef and sliced open its hull on Jan. 13 before turning over on its side.

The search had been halted for several hours early Sunday, after instrument readings indicated that the Concordia has shifted a bit on its precarious perch on a seabed.

A few yards away, the sea bottom drops off suddenly, by some 65-100 feet, and if the Concordia should abruptly roll off its ledge, rescuers could be trapped inside.

When instrument data indicated the vessel had stabilized again, rescuers went back in, but only explored the above-water section and evacuation staging areas where survivors have indicated that people who did not make it into lifeboats during the chaotic evacuation could have remained.

There are also fears that the Concordia's double-bottom fuel tanks could rupture in case of sudden shifting, spilling almost 500,000 million gallons of heavy fuel into pristine sea around Giglio.

The Italian captain, Francesco Schettino, is under house arrest as prosecutors investigate him for suspected manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship while many were still aboard.

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