Relatives of the 32 people killed and survivors of the capsized Costa Concordia liner have marked the Italian shipwreck's second anniversary. Its captain has expressed "unforgettable sorrow."
Relatives of those killed in the 2012 Concordia luxury liner disaster threw a wreath into the sea off Tuscany on Monday. Survivors from Russia and Britain also stood silently in a courtroom where the captain stands accused of manslaughter.
Francesco Schettino, who was not present at Monday's hearing, stands accused of bungling the ship's evacuation and then abandoning the liner before all of the more than 4,000 occupants from 70 countries had been evacuated.
Survivors blame operator
A lawyer for some of the survivors, Massimiliano Gabrielli, said the trial in the mainland town of Grosseto had shown that more blame should be put on the ship's owner, Costa Crociere.
"There is a lack of security on these ships. This trial is showing that the emergency systems that should have guaranteed passenger safety did not work," Gabrielli told Italy's ANSA news agency.
The captain is the only person on trial for the ship's grounding on the island of Giglio on the night of January 13, 2012.
Five others - four crew members and Roberto Ferrarini, the head of Costa Crociere's crisis unit - have negotiated plea bargains of up to 34 months in prison coupled with fines.
Schettino, in a written message, said he felt "an indelible pain" over the disaster and was in a state of "profound mourning:"
Among relatives who were also attending a church service on Giglio, Madeleine Soria Molina of Peru said the death of her sister Erika, who was a Concordia crew member, was "hard to get over."
Giglio's commemorations will culminate Monday evening with a candlelight procession to mark the exact time – 9:45 p.m., local time – when the Concordia gashed its hull on a reef off Giglio while sailing too close.
Giglio awaits removal
The massive wreck, which was turned upright in a salvage operation in September (pictured above), is to be re-floated and towed away by June. It will be dismantled for scrap.
Giglio's mayor Sergio Ortelli said island residents were traumatized by "that terrible night" but were now "looking forward optimistically" to the wreck's removal.
Ports in Italy, Turkey, France and even China have submitted bids for the contract to turn Concordia into scrap.
Last year, the ship's European owner, Costa Crociere SpA, avoided criminal prosecution by agreeing to pay a 1 million euro ($1.35 million) fine. Crociere is a unit of the Miami-based cruise line operator Carnival Corp.
Victims have since sought damages in civil proceedings.
ipj/kms (AP, dpa, AFP)