The wreck of the Costa Concordia was re-floated Monday and will soon begin its final journey to the port of Genoa, where it will be broken up for scrap. The massive luxury liner ran aground on rocks near the island of Giglio on January 13, 2012 and capsized, killing 32 people.
The rusting remains of the once-white ship had been resting on a temporary platform since it was righted last year, according to Reuters. The salvage operation has become one of the largest undertakings in history.
Thirty large metal boxes, or sponsons, were attached around the hull of the ship and air was pumped into them Monday to disperse water, lifting the vessel off its underwater platform.
Franco Porcellachia, the engineer in charge of the Costa Concordia salvage, said at a news conference about seven hours after the operation started that the ship had been raised two meters out of the water.
Tug boats attached with cables to the ship then began shifting the luxury liner away from the shore. Porecellachia explained, “I would say we are halfway through our plan to move the ship.” The Costa Concordia floating operation should be complete Monday, according to the engineer, who added, “When deck 3 re-emerges, we are in the final stage and ready for departure.”
Later Monday, the ship will be stabilized with chains and cables, then work will begin Tuesday to prepare if for towing. The ship is expected to depart Giglio on July 21.
Meanwhile, CNN reports that crews are still looking for the body of Russel Rebello, a 33-year-old waiter from India who is believed to have perished when the Costa Concordia sank two years ago. Rebello is the only victim whose remains haven’t been found.
Search teams believed they had found Rebello’s remains in October, but the body turned out to be that of Maria Grazia Trecarichi, a Sicilian who was on the cruise to celebrate her 50th birthday. Investigators hope to find Rebello’s remains after the ship is towed away for salvage.
Italian Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti told reporters that the re-floating operation marked the closure of a dark moment in Italy. He explained that it would have been too dangerous to leave the luxury liner in place for another year, adding, “We could have dismantled the Concordia in situ, but they chose to take the more expensive, riskier route to tow it away to save the environment of Giglio.”
While salvage crews work to re-float the Costa Concordia, the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, is on trial on charges of manslaughter, causing a maritime disaster, and abandoning ship with passengers still on board.
[Image by Rvongher]