Ill-fated Italian cruise liner to be moved by year’s end

The wreck of Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia will be moved from Giglio Island by the end of the year, the top rescue official said Sunday.

The ship’s owner Costa Crociere is readying a call for tenders, and the few companies capable of the job will quickly respond with recovery plans, said the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, Franco Gabrielli.

“These two stages should take about two months,” Gabrielli told the media, after which, “taking into account the constraints that weather and sea conditions may impose, it will take seven to 10 months to remove the wreck,” he said.

The 114 500-tonne ship ran aground on rocks with some 4 200 people aboard on January 13 and is lying on its side off the Tuscan island.

A total of 17 bodies have been recovered, and 16 people remain missing.

Heavy weather on Saturday forced salvage crews to suspend pumping thousands of tonnes of fuel from the wrecked ship, though recovery operations continued and divers found the latest body, an unidentified woman.

Many in the region are concerned about fuel leaks from the ship into the area’s popular recreation waters, saying a spill would be environmentally disastrous in one of Europe’s biggest marine parks.

Gabrielli said the ship’s most recent movements, which led to a suspension of the search on Sunday morning, were due to tidal and wave conditions.

Overnight the wreck, which usually moves two to three milimetres per hour, shifted 3.5 centimetres (1.4 inches) amid high winds and large waves.

Gabrielli stressed, however, that Italian authorities remained determined to resume the search for more bodies as quickly as possible, citing “the moral imperative to return the bodies to their families.” — Sapa-AFP

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