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Disasters

Shipwreck draws tourists, hampering recovery

Six months after the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster off the Mediterranean coast of Italy, the shipwreck has become a magnet for tourists. For the salvage operation, however, the visitors are a problem.

It happened on January 13: Off the coast of the Italian island of Giglio, the Costa Concordia struck a reef. On board were 4,200 passengers and crew.. The cruise ship took on water, it cantered, people panicked. Captain Francesco Schettino was one of the first to jump ship. Most of the passengers, on the other hand, had to endure hours of uncertainty and fear before they are evacuated.

Thirty people died; two are still missing. Six months later, the capsized wreck is still lodged on a reef off Giglio. It has become a magnet for day trippers, to the chagrin of hoteliers on the island.

1.50 entry fee

Since July 1, the Giglio authorities have imposed an entry fee. It affects the many tourists "who come just for a day, to see the ship and take pictures there," said Mariangela Traficante, tourism expert and journalist with the Italian travel magazine Guida Viaggi. The amount is minimal, but the authorities hope it will reduce the number of day trippers. "People do not stay overnight here, they spend no money, and the hoteliers are not happy," Traficante said.

Rescue workers in a dinghy before the Costa Concordia

Rescue operations continued for several weeks

However, the hotels were full over the Easter holidays. That's also thanks to the local government, which supports the tourism industry vigorously. Just a few months ago, the Tuscany region launched an international media campaign. It will be advertising the island of Giglio at trade fairs and exhibitions worldwide. The Minister of Tourism even visited the region and pledged his support, Traficante said. "The international media only report on those tourists who come just to see the wreck - that's a problem for the authorities here. They think that it will distort the image of the island as a popular tourist area."

The consequences for nature

The island of Giglio

Giglio would like to be known for its natural beauty

A month after the accident, the pumping of oil from the ship's tanks began. This highly risky operation had no negative impact on the environment, Giovanna Amorosi of  the Tuscan Archipelago National Park said. Several scientific analyses of water quality and the state of the seabed have been undertaken since January. "All confirm that there is no evidence of pollution around the island of Giglio," she said.

But for the environment, the hardest part is still ahead. A month ago, the salvage of the wreck began. The work will take a year. "The biggest challenge will be to move the Costa Concordia onto land in one piece, so as not to endanger the environment," said Carlo Femiani, a marine engineer at the Italian company Micoperi, which is involved in the rescue work. The recovery work will try to prevent pieces of the wreck from breaking off. These could be a danger to the environment. Femiani is nevertheless confident: "We expect a successful operation."

The captain and his point of view

Captain Francesco Schettino

Captain Francesco Schettino is accused of manslaughter

Meanwhile, the captain of the Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino, who has now been released from house arrest, is making new headlines. He is calling himself a "victim of the system" and does not believe he "has committed a crime," he told the private television station Canale 5.

Nevertheless, he says "the 32 deaths" have been weighing on his conscience, and he wanted to "ask everyone for forgiveness." The prosecution is accusing the captain of, among other things, multiple manslaughter, causing the accident and not being the last to leave his ship during the nighttime evacuation. The investigation is going forward, however slowly. It could take several years before it comes to trial.

Author: Rayna Breuer/sgb
Editor: Gregg Benzow

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