(Corrects to change date of wreck in paragraph 2)
* Salvage operation one of the largest in maritime history
* Captain on trial for abandoning ship, causing the wreck
* Ship to be towed to Genoa for scrapping
By Eleanor Biles
GIGLIO, Italy, July 14 The wreck of the luxury
liner Costa Concordia was re-floated on Monday and will soon be
towed away and broken up for scrap, more than two years after it
capsized off the Italian coast, killing 32 people.
The 290-metre Costa Concordia ran aground on rocks near the
Tuscan holiday island of Giglio in January 2012. The rusting
hulk of the once-gleaming-white ship had been resting on a
temporary platform since being righted a year ago.
In what has become one of the largest salvage operations in
history, air was pumped into 30 large metal boxes, or sponsons,
attached around the hull of the 114,500 tonne ship. The air
forced out the water in the sponsons, lifting the vessel off
the underwater platform.
Franco Porcellachia, the engineer in charge of the salvage,
said at a news conference around seven hours after the operation
began that the hulk had been raised two metres out of the water.
Tug boats attached with cables to the ship then started
shifting it away from the shore. "I would say we are halfway
through our plan to move the ship," Porcellachia said.
Later on Monday, the vessel was due to be stabilised with
chains and cables. Work will start again on Tuesday to prepare
it for towing within days to Genoa in northern Italy, to be
Porcellachia said the sixth deck of the ship had started to
emerge on Monday, and once that was fully above the water the
other decks would become visible in quick succession.
"When deck 3 re-emerges, we are in the final stage and ready
for departure," Porcellachia said. The wreck is due to depart
Giglio on July 21.
The ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, is on trial on
charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck as he sailed too
close to shore to "salute" the port, and abandoning ship. He is
fighting the charges.
Once the Concordia has left Giglio, the search will continue
for the body of the last person who was aboard the Concordia the
night it sank and has not been accounted for.
"We are undertaking an operation that will close a dramatic
chapter for our country," Italian Environment Minister Gian Luca
Galletti said at the news conference.
Paying for the disaster, including breaking up the vessel
and repairing the damage to Giglio, is likely to cost the ship's
owner and operator Costa Crociere, a unit of Carnival Corp
, more than 1.5 billion euros ($2.05 billion), its chief
executive said last week.
The cruise liner will be demolished and scrapped in Genoa by
a consortium including oil services company Saipem and
Genoa-based companies Mariotti and San Giorgio.
($1 = 0.7331 Euros)
(Writing by Philip Pullella and Isla Binnie; Editing by Larry
King and Kevin Liffey)