The hunt for the bodies of two missing passengers who died when the Costa Concordia capsized is to begin, now that the cruise ship has been successfully salvaged.
In a complex 18 hour operation, engineers used cables and metal boxes filled with water to roll the ship off the rocks and onto a platform. The liner will now be reinforced, and towed away in the spring.
The authorities did warn it could take days before they could start looking for the bodies. “From an operative point of view we should wait until the shipwreck is secured,” said civil protection official Franco Gabrielli.
The leader of Costa Cruise’s technical team, Franco Porcellacchia, said there were still risks involved in the search and authorisation was needed before teams could go into new areas to look for the bodies.
“Now that the ship is upright a new attempt can be made to locate the bodies of the two missing victims because there are fewer dangers, but anyway we should consider that risk,” he said.
“We should ask to authorities for permission to enter into the remote areas, where we never have entered before. So when we are authorised we will also go there,” Porcellacchia added.
Nick Sloane, the South African chief salvage master, was congratulated on the successful recovery operation. He said he was pleased it had gone to plan: “I am really, really impressed. Quite surprised actually. We were expecting more damage at the start. But the damage had actually been done already.”
A multi-national team of 500 salvage technicians and divers has been on the Italian island of Giglio for most of the past year, stabilising the wreck and preparing for the lifting operation, which had never been tried on so large a vessel in such challenging conditions.
The Costa Concordia ran aground near Giglio in January 2012, killing 32 people.