Monday, 16 September 2013

Robot subs search for Concordia bodies

Workers have begun trying to right the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship off the Italian island of Giglio, in the biggest salvage operation of its kind.

The 290-metre ship has lain on its side since it foundered off the Tuscan coast on the night of January 13, 2012 in a tragedy that claimed 32 lives.

The unprecedented operation, which was delayed by several hours by overnight storms, began this morning (local time) after a maritime exclusion zone was established around the site.

Relatives hope to find the bodies of the final two missing victims of the shipwreck during the high-risk operation to right the capsized cruise liner.

Two bodies - that of an Italian mother celebrating her 50th birthday and an Indian waiter - are trapped and have yet to be recovered.

"They are probably in a lifeboat that was sunk when the ship capsized," said Alessandro Centurioni, the environmental commissioner in Giglio, who has helped to plan the salvage operation. "I think they will be just bones after a year and a half in the sea."

The righting of the 114,500-tonne ship, more than double the weight of the Titanic, will be the largest-ever salvage of a passenger vessel. Fifty-six cables weighing 26 tonnes each will haul it off the rocks and rotate it 65 degrees to upright in a method called "parbuckling". The riskiest part of the 10 to 12-hour operation will come in the early hours, when the maximum force - up to 7,000 tonnes per cable - will be applied.

Five robotic submarines will be standing by to look for the bodies.

The ship is full of rotting food and experts say that it could release a foul smell. An inventory of the provisions included 8,200kg of beef, 10,800 eggs and 10 bottles of holy wine for Mass.

"It's possible that when the boat is righted, there could be a release of gas that was trapped inside [the fridges]," Mr Centurioni said.

Elio Vincenzo, the husband of the missing woman, Maria Grazia Trecarichi, was due to arrive in the island last night. "I'm thinking only of my wife. These have been very hard months without Maria Grazia, but I hope with the rotation they will find her underneath," he said. "I'm counting on it."

Mr Vincenzo said that his wife did not get on the same lifeboat as his daughter, who was also onboard but survived, because she was cold and had gone below deck to fetch a jacket.

Kevin Rebello, the brother of Russel Rebello, 33, the lost Indian waiter, is expected to arrive in Giglio to follow the search on Tuesday, once the rotation is complete.

Father Lorenzo Pasquotti, the local Catholic priest, said: "We are waiting and waiting - with hope. Some people are afraid, but the people of the salvage consortium are working hard. If it goes bad, it will be because of the sea, not them."

Monday 16 September 2013


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