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Europe

Bid to salvage Costa Concordia ship begins

©

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-09-26

Operations to hoist upright the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship began on Monday, 20 months after the ship went down off the coast of Italy claiming 32 lives.

A daring bid to resurrect the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship out of its shallow grave off the Italian island of Giglio began on Monday morning, after an unexpected thunderstorm swept across the region delaying operations for three hours.

Despite the temporary setback civil protection chief Franco Gabrieli said that there were no changes to the planned operation itself, which is expected to take 10-12 hours.

“Despite rain overnight, it is pretty clear and calm right now,” special correspondent Seema Gupta said Monday. “The last ferry leaving the island for the mainland has departed and there are no more ferries in the area for security reasons. This really is an unprecedented salvage operation, moving a ship this size of three football fields like this.”

The 290-metre long cruise ship has been stuck on its side ever since partially sinking near the Tuscan coast on January 13, 2012 in a tragedy that claimed 32 lives.

“The first stage really is the most crucial one,” Gupta noted. “That’s where the ship’s hull will be freed from the granite rock below it. Now this is what has made this entire process complicated, because this massive cruise liner is balancing on two granite reefs”

“It has been secured with platforms and cement sacks but there will be pressure on the ship when this process happens, and the concern is of course that it will split or perhaps there will be spillage,” she added.

The civil protection agency, which is overseeing the project, has assured that the ship will not break apart; however, they have warned that some spillage will be inevitable.

“The spillage is of concern because there are some toxic chemicals still present inside. There are also cleaning fluids as well as waste,” Gupta said.

Activists warn thousands of tons of toxic waste will pour into the sea. The pristine waters around Giglio are designated as a marine reserve. Residents, who rely on tourism to the idyllic coastline for their economy, have also expressed concern.

Officials say they are ready with extra floating booms and clean-up boats if there is a spill. “The water inside and outside are being monitored,” Gupta noted.

The unprecedented rescue project so far has cost more than 600 million euros and one of the insurance companies picking up the tab estimates the bill could run up to 820 million euros.

Date created : 2013-09-16

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