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Raise the Costa Concordia: A background on the ill-fated cruise ship

Published on Jul 14, 2014 4:23 PM
 

Two and a half years after the Costa Concordia tragedy, efforts are restarting again for a final stage operation to float the cruise ship out of the water and tow it to Genoa in Northern Italy, where it will be cut up. We trace the background of the ill-fated Italian vessel.

The event

The vessel had crashed into rocks and sunk off the coast of Giglio Island, a tranquil little island near Tuscany, in January 2012. It was Friday the 13th.

It had been carrying over 4,200 people from 70 countries, on a week-long cruise in the Mediterranean. A total of 32 people perished when the ship sank.

The order to evacuate the ship came only just over an hour after the impact. 

In a recovery operation of an unprecedented scale, the ship was brought upright last September in a 19-hour operation, after lying on its right side for over a year.

Titanic of the 21st century?

The massive vessel measures 290m - more than two and a half lengths of a football field - is twice as big as the infamous Titanic.

Eerily, the accident happened just three months before the 100th year anniversary of the Titanic tragedy in the Atlantic.

The similarities do not end there. A passenger reported that Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On, the theme song from the movie Titanic, was playing in one of the dining rooms when the accident happened.

Costa Concordia

Captain Cowardly

Ship Captain Francesco Schettino is currently on trial in Grosseto, Tuscany, facing charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship. He could be imprisoned up to 20 years.

He has been dubbed Italy's most hated man, for his cowardly actions.

Schettino had diverted the vessel off its original course, and brought it really close to Giglio, so as to sound its horns in salute. He had reported to have been on the phone with Mario Palombo, a sea captain and friend who was on the island that night.

The ship's navigator said that when it was clear the ship was sinking, the Captain changed out of his uniform into civilian clothes, in an attempt to blend in with passengers as he abandoned ship before everyone had been evacuated.

His defence was that when the ship tilted to the side, he tripped and fell overboard, and accidentally landed in a lifeboat.

In a recent interview, he even blamed the crash on his Indonesian helmsman, saying that due to language differences, the helmsman turned the ship right when he had ordered him to turn left.

Environmental threat

The environmental threat arising from this unfortunate event was also a major issue, as the ship was carrying half a million gallons of diesel fuel, together with lots of rotting food, furniture, bedding and passengers' belongings.

Any spill or leakage would have been disastrous for the area around Giglio, which is part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. The largest marine park in Europe, it is home to rare flora and fauna, including tree frogs, finches, and geckos.

A macabre tourist attraction

Interestingly, Giglio had requested that the operation to refloat the Costa Concordia be postponed, but was denied.

Visitors have been drawn from all around to the usually quiet island, to see the now-infamous wreck with their own eyes, helping to boost the local economy.

The wreck site as a tourist attraction is a grim one though, since the tragedy took the lives of 32 passengers. In February this year, a Spanish diver also died while taking part in underwater operations.

 

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