Wrecked cruise ship Concordia wrested off Italian reef (+photos)

By Frances D'emilio

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Sept. 16 2013 6:50 a.m. MDT

One woman walking her dog near the harbor sported a T-shirt with "Keep Calm and Watch the Parbuckling Project" written across it in English. A variation on other T-shirts read: "Keep calm and think of Giglio Island." Gigliese, as locals call themselves, had raced to the aid of the survivors who staggered shivering from the sea that wintry night, bringing them blankets, warm clothing and invitations into their homes.

"There is a little tension now. The operation is very complex," said Giovanni Andolfi, a 63-year-old resident who spent his career at sea working on tankers and cruise ships and watched the operation from port.

Engineers have dismissed as "remote" the possibility that the Concordia might break apart and no longer be sound enough to be towed to the mainland to be turned into scrap. Should the Concordia break apart during the rotation, or spew out toxic materials as it is raised, absorbent barriers were set in place to catch any leaks.

The reef sliced a 70-meter-long (230-foot) gash into what is now the exposed side off the hull, letting seawater rush in. The resulting tilt was so drastic that many lifeboats couldn't be launched. Dozens of the 4,200 passengers and crew were plucked to safety by helicopters or jumped into the sea and swam to shore. Bodies of many of the dead were retrieved inside the ship, although two bodies were never found and might lie beneath the hulk.

The Concordia's captain is on trial on the mainland for alleged manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship during the chaotic and delayed evacuation. Capt. Francesco Schettino claims the reef wasn't on the nautical charts for the liner's weeklong Mediterranean cruise.

Parbuckling was supposed to begin before dawn, but the operation was pushed back by an overnight storm that delayed the positioning of a barge near the wreckage that serves as the command control center. After the storm blew away, seas were calm.

Costa Crociere SpA, the Italian unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp., is picking up the tab for the parbuckling and its intricate preparation. The company puts the costs so far at 600 million euros ($800 million), though much of that will be passed onto its insurers.

Despite the disaster, locals have come to appreciate the crews who have spent more than a year working on the wreckage; they have mingled with locals and contributed to their economy, renting out hotel rooms and vacation apartments that would otherwise have gone vacant during the winter months.

Andolfi, the seaman, called the crews "the best brains in the field." But he was eager to see them finish.

"I would like Giglio to return to what it was before, a beautiful place of uncontaminated nature," he said.

Project is at www.theparbucklingproject.com

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