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Darkness did not interrupt the operation to lift the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship off the rocks as the salvage operation near the Italian coast continued into the night.

The most complex and costly exercise of its kind began on Monday morning after a three-hour delay due to a storm.

A multinational team of engineers had spent most of the past year stabilising the wreck and preparing for this moment. Even before the operation began the cost was estimated at 600 million euros.

Progress throughout the day was slower than originally estimated. By mid-afternoon the operation using a technique known as “parbuckling” had lifted the side of the huge vessel completely off the rock bed.

The focus has been on the technical operation but many people’s thoughts are with the 32 people who died when the Costa Concordia ran aground and capsized in January 2012. The bodies of two victims have never been found.

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