Wrecked cruise ship Costa Concordia raised off Italian rocks

Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:54pm EDT
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By James Mackenzie

GIGLIO, Italy (Reuters) - The Costa Concordia was pulled upright off the Italian island of Giglio on Tuesday, in a tense salvage operation that revealed the damage to a once gleaming cruise liner that had lain on its side for 20 months after capsizing, killing 32 people.

Brown mud covered what had been the submerged side of the ship, now gashed and crumpled under the vessel's own weight, a stark contrast to the pristine floating hotel which was carrying more than 4,000 holidaymakers and crew when it struck the rocks on January 13, 2012.

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said the operation had "helped our country turn the corner and renew its public image, which in the case of the shipwreck was one of a country that dodged its responsibilities."

In a 19-hour operation that ended at 4 a.m. (0200 GMT), the 114,500-ton ship was hauled up by huge jacks and cables and lowered onto underwater platforms drilled into the sea bed.

As it settled into position on a special "mattress", salvage master Nick Sloane sent a message to his teams announcing that the operation had succeeded.

"You could hear the guys were really chuffed all over, they were blowing their horns, jumping up and down," he told a news conference, fighting back tears as he recalled the moment.

A South African, leading the operation for the U.S.-Italian consortium Titan-Micoperi, Sloane said the project was one of the most challenging he had ever worked on.

The "parbuckling" technique had never been tried on so large a ship in such a tricky position, with the added risk of an environmental disaster in the azure Tuscan waters.   Continued...

The capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia is seen at the end of the "parbuckling" operation outside Giglio harbour September 17, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile