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Officials said so far no appreciable pollution from inside the ship had spewed out. Giglio Island is part of a Tuscan marine sanctuary where dolphins and fish are plentiful.
The salvage operation, known in nautical parlance as parbuckling, was used on the USS Oklahoma in 1943 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But the 300-meter (1,000-foot) Concordia has been described as the largest cruise ship ever to capsize and subsequently require the complex rotation so it can be towed away in one piece and dismantled for scrap.
Engineers used remote controls to guide a synchronized system of pulleys, counterweights and huge chains that were looped under the Concordia’s carcass to delicately nudge the ship free.
Once the ship is upright, engineers hope to attach an equal number of tanks filled with water on the other side to balance the ship, anchor it and stabilize it during the winter months. The flat-keeled hull itself will be resting on a false seabed constructed some 30 meters (100 feet) underwater.
When it comes time to tow the ship away next spring, the tanks will gradually be emptied of the water. That will make the ship buoyant enough to float off the seabed, with the tanks acting like a giant pair of water wings.
Costa Crociere SpA, the Italian unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp., is picking up the tab for the operation, which it estimates so far at 600 million euros ($800 million). Much of that will be passed on to its insurers.
A few dozen island residents gathered Monday on a breakwater to witness the operation. One woman walking her dog sported a T-shirt with "Keep Calm and Watch the Parbuckling Project" written across it in English.
Others watched from afar. Kevin Rebello, whose brother Russel was a waiter on the ship and was never found, said he was in constant touch with the project managers as he monitored news reports.
"I haven’t slept since yesterday," he told The Associated Press in an interview in Rome. "It’s taken 20 months. If it takes another 20 hours, for me it’s worth the wait."
Rebello plans to travel to Giglio Island on Tuesday, even though he knows there’s no certainty his brother’s remains will be found. His hope is that someday he can bring his brother home to Mumbai "to give him a decent burial.
"That’s what me, my family, his wife and all of us are hoping for," he said.
The Concordia’s captain is on trial for alleged manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship during the chaotic and delayed evacuation. Capt. Francesco Schettino claims the reef wasn’t on the nautical charts for the liner’s weeklong Mediterranean cruise.
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