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More money, time needed to remove Concordia wreck

By Paolo Santalucia

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Jan. 12 2013 8:43 p.m. MST

While groups of survivors were arriving on the island — some on specially organized ferries — others received a letter from Costa urging them to stay away, saying there wasn't room for them and that the commemoration was for families of those who died. Those who received the letter speculated that Costa simply didn't want disgruntled passengers speaking to the media.

Nevertheless, some such passengers were on hand.

Violet Morra, a 65-year-old from Marseille, said she had rejected Costa's initial settlement offer of €11,000 euros per passenger, offered in the immediate aftermath of the grounding. Many survivors rejected the offer and are pursuing legal action against the company and its Miami-based parent company Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise line.

Passengers recounted a harrowing and chaotic evacuation, with crew members giving contradictory instructions and the captain delaying the evacuation order for a full hour after impact. By the time he gave the order, the ship was at such a tilt that many lifeboats couldn't be lowered.

"It meant that our lives were only worth €11,000, just €11,000 euro for our lives," Morra said. "We are still facing psychological problems, and so we have rejected it."

Costa attorney Marco De Luca said the compensation procedures are going ahead "at a satisfactory pace." He said almost two-thirds of the passengers took Costa's compensation offer.

Costa is fighting legal efforts, particularly those in the United States, where damage awards are likely to be higher than in Italy. Costa is challenging the jurisdiction of U.S. courts to hear the cases, arguing among other things that in buying their cruise tickets, passengers entered into a contract with Costa that selects the courts of Genoa, Italy, as the exclusive forum for any claims against the company.

The plan to roll the Costa off its side and remove it from its resting place involves constructing an underwater platform and attaching empty cisterns on the exposed side of the ship. The cisterns will be filled with water, and cranes attached to the platform will be used to rotate the ship and pull it upright. Once upright, the ship will have cisterns attached to the other side. All the cisterns will be emptied of water and filled with air to help float the ship and free it from the seabed. Once it's properly afloat, it can then be towed to a nearby seaport for demolition.

Salvage crews successfully removed some 2,100 tons of fuel last year from the ship's tanks without any major spill. But Maria Sargentini, president of the environmental oversight group for the Concordia, said sewage, remaining fuel and tons of rotten food remain inside.

"Sure, there are still some risks," she said Saturday. "Especially during the rollover and floating operations, there could be some leaking."

Information on the removal project is at www.theparbucklingproject.com

Winfield reported from Rome. Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield

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