- - Sunday, January 22, 2012


Official: Stowaways may have sailed on stricken ship

GIGLIO — Unregistered passengers might have been aboard the stricken cruise liner that capsized off this Tuscan island, a top rescue official said Sunday, raising the possibility that the number of missing might be higher than the 20 previously announced.

Meanwhile, rescuers resumed searching the above-water section of the Costa Concordia, but choppy seas kept divers from exploring the submerged part, where officials have said there could be bodies.

“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.

The briefing was held on the island of Giglio, where the ship, with 4,200 people aboard, rammed a reef and sliced open its hull on Jan. 13 before turning over on its side.

Mr. Gabrielli said that relatives of a Hungarian woman have told Italian authorities that she had telephoned them from aboard the ship and that they haven’t heard from her since the accident. He said it was possible that a woman’s body pulled from the wreckage by divers on Saturday might be that of the unregistered passenger.

But the identity of that body and of three male bodies, all decomposed after days in the water, have yet to be established.

Mr. Gabrielli said they have identified the other eight bodies: four French, an Italian, a Hungarian, a German and a Spanish national.

Until Sunday, authorities had said that 20 people are still missing.


Pro-EU candidate leads in presidential election

HELSINKI — The conservative pro-Europe favorite was headed toward a comfortable victory in Finland’s presidential election Sunday but without the majority needed to avoid a runoff, partial results showed.

Sauli Niinisto, a former finance minister, was given 37 percent of the vote in a prediction by national broadcaster YLE. Official results with 80 percent of votes counted also showed him with a clear lead.

The results suggested he would face either Paavo Vayrynen, a former foreign minister, or Greens candidate Pekka Haavisto in a second round next month.

Mr. Haavisto, the first openly gay presidential candidate in Finland, got 18 percent in YLE’s forecast, just ahead of Mr. Vayrynen with 17.8 percent.

Populist leader Timo Soini, the face of euroskepticism in Finland, was a distant fourth with 9.6 percent.

If no candidate gets 50 percent, a second round will be held next month between the top two vote-getters.

The election comes as the Nordic country braces for cutbacks amid a European financial crisis that threatens the economy and the top credit rating of the eurozone member.


Socialist candidate holds first ‘presidential’ rally

LE BOURGET — Three months ahead of France’s presidential election, Socialist front-runner Francois Hollande unveiled his “vision for France” at his first mass campaign rally Sunday.

Mr. Hollande still leads the conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy in opinion polls, but his lead is slowly being eroded by resurgent far-right and centrist parties and by his own perceived dithering.

About 10,000 of the party faithful were expected at a conference hall in Le Bourget near Paris, with Mr. Hollande’s campaign slogan “Change Is Now” emblazoned on a patriotically blue, white and red stage.

The Socialists have criticized Mr. Sarkozy for not yet having declared his own candidacy while reserving the right for officials from his ruling UMP party to snipe at opponents’ campaign promises as they tread water.

Mr. Hollande consistently has led opinion polls with 28 percent to 30 percent of votes predicted in the first round on April 22, ahead of Mr. Sarkozy’s 23 percent to 24 percent.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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