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Raising the Costa Concordia, the biggest sea salvage operation ever (+video)

As its captain waits to hear whether he will face charges after capsizing, the Costa Concordia still lies off Giglio Island. Now, hundreds of workers are preparing to float the wreckage.

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It has lain like a great white whale in the crystal clear waters off the Italian island of Giglio for nine months, but a new, crucial phase to remove the capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship is about to swing into action.

A multinational team of more than 450 specialists, including 60 scuba divers, has almost completed the stabilization of the 950-foot long vessel, anchoring it to the rocky sea shore with four massive cables looped beneath its belly.

Now they are about to start the Herculean task of preparing to raise the cruise ship, which sank on the night of Jan. 13 after its captain, Francesco Schettino, allegedly misjudged a “sail-past” maneuver and rammed it into a rocky outcrop about 150 yards off the island.

A pre-trial hearing in Grosseto, the nearest city on the Italian mainland, is expected to decided whether to send him to trial on charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship in violation of maritime law.

The 4,200 passengers and crew had to scramble for safety in the darkness, clambering into lifeboats and even leaping into the sea. Thirty-two people lost their lives.

The Concordia has been wedged on rocks and semi-submerged just a few yards from the coast of Giglio ever since.

The removal of the cruise liner – essentially a floating hotel and shopping mall – will be the biggest operation of its kind ever attempted and is expected to cost at least $400 million. At 114,500 tons, it is twice as heavy as the Titanic, which sank after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic in 1912. The task of lifting it is so epic that it is expected to take eight months, maybe longer.


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