The captain of the Costa Concordia left the stricken cruise liner "well before" the last passengers were evacuated, the prosecutor in charge of investigating the disaster said today.

Asked on the news channel SkyTG24 whether captain Francesco Schettino, arrested yesterday for multiple homicide, had left the liner "well before all the passengers were evacuated," prosecutor Francesco Verusio replied: "Unfortunately I can confirm that."

Meanwhile, rescuers this morning said they had rescued three passengers who were trapped in the giant cruise ship, lying on its side half submerged in shallow waters. They include a Korean couple trapped in their cabin.