Italy's wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship to be raised

ROME Wed Sep 11, 2013 12:44pm EDT

The capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia lies surrounded by containers called ''sponsons'' as part of the salvage plan to remove the wreck of the ship outside Giglio harbour August 8, 2013. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

The capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia lies surrounded by containers called ''sponsons'' as part of the salvage plan to remove the wreck of the ship outside Giglio harbour August 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

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ROME (Reuters) - The wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship could be upright again next week, nearly two years after the liner capsized and killed at least 30 people off the Italian coast.

The giant vessel, which has lain partly submerged in shallow waters off the Tuscan island of Giglio since the accident in January 2012, will be rolled off the seabed and onto underwater platforms.

Workers will look for the bodies of two people, an Italian and an Indian unaccounted for since the disaster, as machines haul the 114,000-tonne ship upright and underwater cameras comb the seabed.

The exact day of the Concordia's rotation - known as parbuckling - has yet to be set, but on Wednesday Civil Protection Commissioner Franco Gabrielli said Monday was likely.

The Costa Concordia hit a rock when it maneuver too close to the island, prompting a chaotic evacuation of more than 4,000 passengers and crew, in one of the most dramatic marine accidents in recent history.

Divers have pumped 18,000 metric tons of cement into bags below the ship to support it and prevent it from breaking up in an operation which is expected to last 8-10 hours and is part of a salvage operation estimated to cost at least $300 million.

A buoyancy device acting "like a neck brace for an injured patient" will hold together the ship's bow, and fishing nets will catch debris as it rises from beneath the ship, said Nicholas Sloane, senior salvage master at Titan Salvage.

The salvage team will go through the ship cabin by cabin and had over items found on board to the Italian state prosecutor, and the vessel will be towed away to be dismantled.

Four Costa Concordia crew members and a Costa Cruises company official were sentenced to jail in July for their part in the accident, and the ship's captain Francesco Schettino remains on trial for manslaughter and causing the loss of the ship.

The captain is accused of abandoning ship before all crew and passengers had been rescued. A coastguard's angry phone order to him - "Get back on board, damn it!" - became a catchphrase in Italy after the accident.

(Reporting by Eleanor Biles; writing by Naomi O'Leary; editing by Emma Farge)

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