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Much of the focus has been on the cruise ship captain, Francesco Schettino.

In a dramatic phone conversation released Tuesday, a coast guard official was heard ordering Capt. Schettino, who had abandoned the ship with his first officers, back on board to oversee the evacuation. But Capt. Schettino resisted, saying it was too dark and the ship was tipping dangerously.

“You go on board! Is that clear? Do you hear me?” the Coast Guard officer shouted as Capt. Schettino sat safe in a life raft and frantic passengers struggled to escape the listing ship. “It is an order. Don’t make any more excuses. You have declared ‘Abandon ship.’ Now I am in charge.”

The officer confronted him with an expletive-laced order to get back on board, which has quickly entered the Italian lexicon. The four-word phrase has become a Twitter hashtag, and Italian media have shown photos of T-shirts bearing the command.

Capt. Schettino, later in the same exchange, denied having abandoned the ship, saying that he had tripped and fallen.

“I did not abandon a ship with 100 people on board, the ship suddenly listed and we were thrown into the water,” Capt. Schettino said, according to a transcript published Wednesday in the Corriere della Sera paper.

Jailed since the accident, Capt. Schettino was questioned by a judge for three hours Tuesday before the judge ordered him held under house arrest — a decision that federal prosecutors were planning to challenge.

Capt. Schettino’s lawyer, Bruno Leporatti, told a news conference Wednesday in Grosetto that the house arrest made sense, given there was no evidence the captain intended to flee. Mr. Leporatti cited the fact that the captain coordinated the evacuation from the shore after leaving the ship.

“He never left the scene,” Mr. Leporatti said. “There has never been a danger of flight.”

Mr. Leporatti added that Capt. Schettino was upset by the accident, contrary to depictions in the Italian media that he did not appear to show regret.

“He is a deeply shaken man, not only for the loss of his ship, which for a captain is a grave thing, but above all for what happened and the loss of human life,” the lawyer said.

Criminal charges including manslaughter and abandoning ship are expected to be filed by prosecutors shortly. Capt. Schettino faces a possible 12 years in prison on the abandoning ship charge alone.

Premier Mario Monti offered his first comment on the disaster Wednesday, telling a press conference in London that it “could and should” have been avoided.

Mr. Monti also thanked the residents of Giglio, which has a wintertime population of about 900, for opening their doors to the 4,200 refugees who struggled ashore with nothing and were given clothes, food and shelter.

And he acknowledged concerns about the 500,000 gallons of fuel still aboard the ship.

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