ROME, Italy (AFP) – The Costa Concordia cruise ship will be raised up next month near the Italian island where it still lies keeled over more than a year on from the deadly disaster, the salvage coordinator said on Friday.
The giant liner crashed into the picturesque Tuscan island of Giglio on the night of January 13 last year with 4,229 people from 70 countries on board in a disaster that claimed 32 lives.
"If things go as we are expecting. I think September will be the month of the rotation," prefect Franco Gabrielli told Italian news channel SkyTG24, declining to give a precise date.
The raising of the Concordia had been programmed for September 2012 but was then delayed to May 2013 and then put off again because of technical difficulties.
The salvage is the biggest ever attempted for a passenger ship.
The plan is initially to rotate the 114,500-ton vessel, then attach flotation tanks to the side that is currently under water like the ones already welded to its exposed side.
The tanks will then be emptied of water to act as flotation devices before the ship is towed away to be scrapped in a port that is yet to be determined.
Salvage operators say the rotation has to occur in September at the latest because otherwise there would be a risk of bad weather later in the year.
Giglio mayor Sergio Ortelli said the operation was in its "final phase", adding that he was confident the operation the island return to "calm and normality".
Ortelli said tourist numbers on the island were down 15 percent this season compared to before the crash but said this was an improvement from last summer when arrivals were down 30 percent.