GIGLIO (Reuters) - Italian police have located the exact spot where the doomed Costa Concordia was pierced by sharp rocks that ripped open a hole in its hull and believe that once the vast ship approached the outcrop, a disaster was almost certain.
"We are nearly 100 percent certain we found the point of impact," the head of the squad of scuba divers for the Carabinieri, or the military police, told Reuters. "Passing so close to those rocks made a collision practically inevitable."
The spot, in about 8 meters (yards) of water, is just 10 meters away from a large rock outcrop jutting out of the sea, some 30 meters from the shore of Giglio, off the Tuscan coast in western Italy.
The ship's captain Francesco Schettino is accused of bringing the 114,500 tonne Concordia dangerously close to the shore where the rocks tore a gash into its side, letting waters flood in and causing the liner to capsize.
The Carabinieri divers located and photographed the undersea scene on Monday, but spoke about it for the first time on Wednesday. The police official asked not to be named.
Because the underwater photographs taken by the police had yet to be reviewed by prosecutors investigating the shipwreck, they were not yet available to the public, he said.
A large chunk of rock remains lodged in the hull of the port side of the ship, and is visible because the Concordia is resting on its starboard side.
"We found the other half of that rock," the police official said. "And there were marks further down on other rocks that were scarred by the hull of the ship."
There was no indication that the ship had hit anything that was not submerged, he said.
The string of rocks that stretch into the sea at the end of the point are called "le scole," and are easily visible by day. They are just south of the Giglio port.
The ship is partially submerged and is resting on an undersea slope on the point just north of the port.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Peter Graff)