Survivors mark Concordia wreck anniversary

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iol pic wld _ITALY-SHIPWRECK_0113_11

REUTERS

Tthe Costa Concordia. File photo: Max Rossi

Giglio Island, Italy -

Survivors of the capsized Costa Concordia are commemorating the second anniversary of the grounding off Tuscany that killed 32 people with a candlelight march on Giglio island and a moment of silence in the Italian courtroom where the captain is on trial.

Judges and survivors alike stood in silence on Monday morning inside the theatre-turned courtroom where Captain Francesco Schettino stands accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the Concordia before all passengers had been evacuated. He says he's innocent and saved lives.

Residents of Giglio are finally seeing the end of their ordeal, with June set as the date to remove the wreck from the island's port. They received a boost in spirits in September when salvage crews pulled off an unprecedented engineering feat to right the 115-ton, 300-meter -long wreck in preparation for it to be towed away.

“Definitely (this anniversary) is something that takes us back to that terrible night, even if today we are looking at this anniversary ... with a light that is a little bit different,” Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli told The Associated Press on Monday. “Today we are looking forward optimistically to what will be the final operation.”

Giglio's commemorations began with a Mass in the church that welcomed in survivors that cold night January 13, 2012. It ends with an evening candlelight procession to mark the exact time - 9.45pm - that the Concordia slammed into a reef and capsized. Schettino is accused of having taken the ship off course in a stunt to bring it closer to Giglio, and then delaying the evacuation order until it was too late to lower many of the lifeboats from the listing liner.

“Two years means that, let's not say we've gotten used to it, but almost,” said Giglio resident Giuseppe Modeste. “But eventually this wreck will be taken away.”

In the coming months, a total of 30 giant tanks will be affixed to both sides of the Concordia to float it off the false seabed where it is resting, so it can be towed to a port to be dismantled for scrap. Five Italian ports are vying for the contract, but ports in Turkey, France and even China have also submitted bids.

The ship owner, Costa Crociere SpA is a unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise line operator. - Sapa-AP


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