INTERNATIONAL NEWS - A month after the Costa Concordia grounded with 4,229 people from 60 countries on board, Italy is remembering the victims of one of the worst disasters on a luxury liner since the Titanic.
Thirty-two people are now believed to have died in the tragedy on the Tuscan island of Giglio, even though the families of 15 still officially missing are clinging to the desperate hope that their loved ones may still be alive.
Survivors have meanwhile launched legal action in France, Germany and the United States, while prosecutors in Italy investigate the widely ridiculed captain, Francesco Schettino, nicknamed "Captain Coward" in the press.
On the picturesque island itself, residents are increasingly worried that the 2,380 tons of heavy fuel oil in the ship's tanks which still have to be pumped out could leak and contaminate Europe's biggest marine sanctuary.
"I would feel calmer once there are fewer tons of fuel," said Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italy's civil protection agency, who has visited frequently over the past month while also contending with the freezing weather emergency.
There is concern too that plans to remove the 114,500-tonne ship -- more than twice the size of the Titanic which sank in 1912 -- are dragging on and that its presence could ruin the tourist season vital for the local economy.
"Well, yes, it has to be taken away. It's like having a car in your living room!" said one frustrated local fisherman. A pensioner walking by said: "It's not nice to look at but it might attract some people who are curious."
The Costa Concordia hit rocks near Giglio on the night of January 13, just hours after setting off on a seven-day Mediterranean cruise and as passengers were settling down to dinner -- many of them dressed in elegant evening wear.
Passengers were initially told only that there had been a blackout and had to wait nearly an hour for the order to abandon ship, sparking scenes of panic and chaos after several lifeboats failed to deploy because of the ship's tilt.
Dozens of people threw themselves into the sea in the night and were rescued by local residents and fire brigade workers as the ship keeled over just a few metres from a rocky shoreline in front of the island's tiny harbour.
In the days that followed, mountain rescue teams and divers combed through the ship's 1,500 cabins and labyrinthine passages -- plucking a South Korean couple and cabin service director Manrico Giampedroni alive from the wreck.
Italian navy frogmen set off micro-explosives to ease access to the ship, with emergency workers limiting their dives to a maximum of 50 minutes to avoid getting trapped in turbid and furniture-cluttered waters inside the wreck.
A special remembrance mass on Sunday in a Roman basilica will be celebrated by the head of the Catholic Church in Italy, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, and attended by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.
There will also be a more modest but emotional service on Monday, February 13 -- exactly one month on from the disaster -- on Giglio itself, with local bishop Guglielmo Borghetti, to honor victims, survivors and rescuers.
Brigitte Litzler came to Giglio from France last week to plead with emergency services to continue the search for her 23-year-old daughter Mylene, who is still officially missing along with her boyfriend Michael, 25.
"With the parents in front of them, they'll continue the search," Brigitte Litzler told AFPTV in an interview.
"I tell myself that I'm on dry land and if it turns out that my child is in there, sinking in the water, trapped... I can't feel okay," she said.
Schettino -- who has admitted responsibility for the impact but has blamed the ship's faulty equipment -- is accused of multiple counts of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship before all passengers were evacuated.
The captain, who is living under house arrest in his home on the Amalfi coast in southern Italy, has denied abandoning ship in an interrogation leaked to the Italian press in which he claimed he had fallen onto a lifeboat.
The recording of a communication from a coast guard upbraiding Schettino for failing to return to the ship to co-ordinate rescue operations was an Internet hit, particularly the official's phrase: "Get back on board, for fuck's sake!"
One month on, the mystery has also deepened over a 25-year-old blonde Moldovan woman on board after leaks from the investigation revealed that she shared Schettino's cabin and was on the bridge at the time of the impact.
The woman reportedly told investigators she was "in love" with Schettino.
Survivors and victims' relatives are meanwhile launching multiple legal suits for damages against the Genoa-based cruise ship operator Costa Crociere, as well as its giant US parent company Carnival Corp. based in Florida.
One US lawyer who is planning to file dozens of individual lawsuits against Carnival visited Italy last week and calling for sweeping changes to the international cruise industry, which he said had been overlooked for too long.
John Artur Eaves from the US state of Mississippi said there should be better training for crew members, more responsibility for cruise ship operators and a system for tracking ships similar to flight control in aviation.
He said: "We have allowed shipping laws to remain in the past... It is time to talk about changing this industry so this accident never happens again."