Engineers in Italy have succeeded in setting the cruise ship Costa Concordia upright, 20 months after it ran aground off the island of Giglio.
The Costa Concordia capsized in January 2012, killing 32 people. In the operation that took all of Monday and most of the night, they used cables and metal boxes filled with water to roll the ship onto a platform. They said that the unprecedented salvage effort "reached degree zero (vertical), which was our target".
The 114,000-gross tonnage ship - twice as heavy as the Titanic - was raised Monday from the rocks on which it had been lying and rolled up onto her keel. More than 50 enormous chains and winches were used to break the ship away from the reef - the process known as parbuckling. During the marathon operation, the ship could be seen slowly emerging from the water, and the clearly visible watermark on the part that had been submerged. Booms and nets were put in place before the operation started - to combat any pollution threat in what is a marine national park. No environmental spill has been detected so far.
The engineers had originally planned to complete the operation by Monday evening, but it had to be delayed by three hours because of a storm. This procedure was carried out very slowly to prevent further damage to the hull, which spent months partially submerged in 15m (50ft) of water and fully exposed to the elements. The ship was declared completely upright shortly after 04:00 local time (02:00) on Tuesday. Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italy's Civil Protection Authority, said the vessel was now sitting on a platform built on the sea bed.
Officials now plan to fully inspect the vessel and begin to prepare the next stage - the effort to repair and refloat it and eventually tow it away to be destroyed. Engineers have never tried to lift such a huge ship - over 951 feet long (290m) - before.
The bodies of two of the victims of the disaster, by the island of Giglio, have never been found. There are hopes that they may be located during the operation.
Five people have been convicted of manslaughter over the disaster, and the captain, Francesco Schettino, is currently on trial accused of manslaughter and abandoning ship.
Giglio mayor Sergio Ortelli earlier said that the removal of the Costa Concordia would bring an end to "a huge problem that we have in our port and that we want to solve as soon as we can. Islanders can't wait to see the back of it," he said.
On Sunday, prayers for the operation were said during Sunday Mass on the island. The small island's economy depends hugely on tourism and the presence of the wreck has discouraged visitors. The salvage project has so far cost more than 600m euros ($800m) and is expected to cost much more before the operation is complete.
Concordia's dead and missing
- Dead: 12 Germans; six Italians (including Dayana Arlotti, 5, and father William Arlotti); six French people; two Peruvians; two Americans (Barbara and Gerald Heil, passengers); one Hungarian (Sandor Feher, crew); one Spaniard (Guillermo Gual, passenger)
- Missing: one Italian (Maria Grazia Trecarichi, passenger); one Indian (Russel Rebello, crew)