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Salvagers start bid to right stricken Costa Concordia

Salvage workers have begun efforts to right the Costa Concordia, the vessel that has spent more than 19 months tilted and half-submerged off the Italian island of Giglio. Tipping the vessel upright is the current task.

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Costa Concordia salvage bid begins

The Costa Concordia ship was slowly being lifted out of the water Monday in an unprecedented Italian-US salvage operation. The side of the vessel that had been underwater appeared rusty in brown, in contrast to the white exposed portion of the hull.

"The ship has lifted off the rocks," said Sergio Girotto, an engineer for the project.

"The first hours were the most uncertain because we didn't know how stuck teh ship was," he told reporters, adding that there were "major deformations" in the hull.

The cruise ship ran aground in January 2012 on reefs just off the Mediterranean island of Giglio; 32 passengers died and two more are still missing, presumed drowned. Operator Costa Cruises (Costa Crociere) estimated last week that the combined costs of salvaging the ship were standing at 600 million euros ($800 million) "and rising."

Delicate operation

Monday's mission was to rotate the ship back towards an upright position, ready to subsequently refloat the hull.

At 290 meters in length and 36 meters in width, the ship has a gross tonnage - describing the volume and size of the vessel - of over 114,000 tonnes, and an estimated actual weight ranging from 25,000 to 45,000 tonnes.

To coax the vessel off its side, workers are comining a number of tactics. Leverage is provided by pulleys and chains beneath the ship's hull, while containers filled with water have been placed on the side of the ship facing skywards, in a bid to help weigh down that side and provide more leverage.

The ship had 4,229 passengers and crew on board when it ran aground. Its captain, Francesco Schettino, faces charges of manslaughter. Schettino is accused both of ordering a rash change of direction that caused the crash, and of trying to abandon his post afterwards.

A team of around 500 people from 26 countries have played some role in the extensive efforts to salvage the giant cruise liner.

msh,dr/ipj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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