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Crippled cruise ship slowly turns upright

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Alessandro La Rocca / The Associated Press

The Costa Concordia ship is seen after it was lifted upright, on the Tuscan Island of Giglio, Italy, Tuesday morning, Sept. 17, 2013.

GIGLIO ISLAND, Italy -- Using a vast system of steel cables and pulleys, maritime engineers on Monday gingerly winched the massive hull of the Costa Concordia off the Italian reef the cruise ship had struck in January 2012.

But progress in pulling the heavily listing luxury liner to an upright position was going much slower than expected. Delays meant the delicate operation -- originally scheduled from dawn to dusk Monday -- was not expected to be completed before this morning.

"Things are going like they should, but on a timetable that is dragging out," Franco Gabrielli, head of Italy's Civil Protection Agency, said Monday evening.

Never before has such an enormous cruise ship been righted. Salvage workers struggled to overcome obstacle after obstacle as they slowly inched toward their goal of raising the crippled ship 65 degrees to the upright position.

An early-morning storm delayed the salvage command barge from getting into place for several hours. Later, some of the cables dragging the ship's hull upright went slack, forcing engineers to climb the hull to fix them.

The Concordia itself didn't budge for the first three hours after the operation began, engineer Sergio Girotto told reporters.

The initial operation to lift the ship moved it just three degrees toward vertical. After 10 hours, the crippled ship had edged upward by just under 13 degrees, a fraction of what had been expected. Still, the top engineers were staying positive.

"Even if it's 15 to 18 hours, we're OK with that. We are happy with the way things are going," Girotto said.

After some 6,000 tons of force were applied -- using a complex system of pulleys and counterweights -- Girotto said "we saw the detachment" of the ship's hull from the reef thanks to undersea cameras.

Thirty-two people died on Jan. 13, 2012, when the Concordia slammed into a reef and toppled half-submerged on its side after coming too close to Giglio Island. The reef sliced a 70-metre-long gash into what is now the exposed side off the hull, letting seawater rush in.

The resulting tilt was so drastic many lifeboats couldn't be launched. Dozens of the 4,200 passengers and crew were plucked to safety by helicopters or jumped into the sea and swam to shore. The bodies of many of the dead were retrieved inside the ship.

Girotto said the cameras on Monday did not immediately reveal any sign of the two bodies that were never recovered.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 17, 2013 A12

History

Updated on Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 6:52 AM CDT: Adds slideshow

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