Italian agency gives final OK to right Concordia after checking weather conditions
Sunday, September 15, 2013, 6:36 PM -
Authorities have given the final go-ahead for a daring attempt Monday to pull upright the crippled Costa Concordia cruise liner from its side in the waters off Tuscany, a make-or-break engineering feat that has never before been tried in such conditions.
The ship capsized there 20 months ago, and Italy's national Civil Protection agency waited until sea and weather conditions were forecast for dawn Monday before giving the OK.
In a statement Sunday, the Civil Protection agency said the sea and wind conditions "fall within the range of operating feasibility."
The Concordia struck a reef near Giglio Island the night of January 13, 2012, took on water through a 70-meter gash in its hull and capsized just outside the harbour.
Thirty-two of the 4,200 passengers and crew members died. The bodies of two of the dead have never been recovered, and may lie beneath the wreckage. Never before have engineers tried to right such a huge ship so close to land. If the operation succeeds, the Concordia will be towed away and broken up for scrap.
The Costa Concordia is visible from space off the coast of Giglio, Italy pic.twitter.com/emfYFuL5Mt— Mike Le Couteur (@mikelecouteur) September 15, 2013
Salvage experts had originally hoped to right the 115,000-ton vessel last spring, but heavy storms hampered work. Crews have raced to get the Concordia upright before another winter season batters the ship against its rocky perch -- damage that would increase the chance that it couldn't be towed away in one piece.
Autorities say the most critical time will be the first hour or so of the operation, since that's when the ship will be detached from the reef.
This weekend, tourists and locals waded and swam in pristine waters just beyond the harbour, with the hulking wreck an ugly backdrop and reminder of the harrowing night when a few thousand people straggled ashore.
Since the Concordia came to rest on its side, visitors have come to gawk at the wreck, providing the tiny fishing island a year-round tourist season it never had before.
Costa is a division of Miami-based Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise ship company.
With files from The Associated Press