Salvage workers have begun raising the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia from the sea so it can be towed away to be scrapped. The risky maneuver could take up to seven days.
The operation to refloat the Costa Concordia began early on Monday morning local time next to the Italian island of Giglio where the ship sank two-and-a-half years ago, killing 32 people.
The first day will see the most risky part of the operation, when the 114,500-tonne vessel is lifted two meters (6.5 feet) from the underwater platform on which it has rested partly submerged since being set upright in September.
Workers on board the ship during the procedure have access to emergency escape routes in case the ship buckles or the chains underneath it break.
Air is being pumped into 30 tanks fixed to the sides of the vessel to allow it to rise to the surface.
The Concordia is due to depart for the northern port of Genoa on July 21, where it will be scrapped.
Major maritime disaster
On the night of January 13, 2012, the luxury liner, which is twice as big as the ill-fated Titanic, struck a reef just off Giglio, apparently while performing a display manoeuvre to move close to shore and "salute" the port. Many of its more than 4,000 passengers and crew were forced to jump into the sea when lifeboat pulleys failed.
The ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, is on trial for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship. He is fighting the charges.
The entire disaster is likely to cost the ship's owner and operator, Costa Crociere, more than 1.5 billion euros ($20.26 billion), its chief executive said last week.
tj/crh (Reuters, AFP)