Survivors remember Costa Concordia disaster

05:16, Jan 14 2014
Costa Concordia
Navy officials release a wreath in front of the Costa Concordia liner to mark the second anniversary of the tragedy.
Costa Concordia
Flowers released by a relative of a victim float on the sea next to the cruise liner.
Costa Concordia
Thirty massive tanks filled with air will lift the hulk of the Costa Concordia off the seabed in June so it can be towed away from the Italian island of Giglio where it capsized two years ago.
Costa Concordia
People watch the cruise liner Costa Concordia.
Costa Concordia
The side of the cruise liner Costa Concordia is pictured during the "parbuckling" operation.
Costa Concordia
A stone plaque bearing the names of people killed has been erected at the Giglio harbour.

Survivors of the capsized Costa Concordia have marked two years since the cruise ship grounded off Italy with a candlelight march on Giglio island and a moment of silence in the courtroom where the captain is on trial.

Relatives of the 32 people killed in the crash also threw a wreath into the sea Monday and attended a Mass in the island's church that had welcomed in hundreds of passengers on the cold night of January 13, 2012 when the Concordia slammed into a reef and capsized.

"I am here for my sister," said Madeleine Soria Molina of Peru, whose sister Erika Fani Soria Molina was among the crewmembers killed.

"It is a way to be with her again, because the death of a member of your family - of a brother or sister - it is hard to get over it."

On the mainland, judges and survivors alike stood in silence inside the theatre-turned-courtroom in Grosseto where Captain Francesco Schettino stands accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the Concordia before all passengers had been evacuated.

Passengers came from as far away as Russia and Britain to attend the hearing, but it was adjourned almost immediately after the commemoration because of a lawyers' strike.

Schettino, who didn't attend the session, has said he's innocent and saved lives.

Residents of Giglio, meanwhile, are finally seeing the end of their ordeal, with June set as the date to remove the hobbled wreck from the island's port.

They received a boost in spirits in September when salvage crews pulled off an unprecedented engineering feat to right the 115-ton, 300-metre-long liner in preparation for it to be towed away.

"Definitely (this anniversary) is something that takes us back to that terrible night, even if today we are looking at this anniversary ... with a light that is a little bit different," Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli told The Associated Press. "Today we are looking forward optimistically to what will be the final operation."

Giglio's commemorations will culminated with an evening candlelight procession to mark the exact time - 9.45pm - that the Concordia ran into the reef off Giglio and pierced a 70-metre gash in its hull.

Schettino is accused of having taken the ship off course in a stunt to bring it closer to Giglio, and then delaying the evacuation order until it was too late to lower many of the lifeboats from the listing liner.

His lawyers have blamed other crewmembers for not following orders and said the ship itself malfunctioned.

In a statement to the ANSA news agency, Schettino expressed his "profound condolences" to the relatives of the victims and said he would have liked to attend the Grosseto moment of silence but couldn't because of the strike. He said the anniversary "renews an indelible wound for all of us."

In the coming months, a total of 30 giant tanks will be affixed to both sides of the Concordia to float it off the false seabed where it is resting, so it can be towed to a port to be dismantled for scrap.

Five Italian ports are vying for the contract, but ports in Turkey, France and even China have also submitted bids.

"Two years means that, let's not say we've gotten used to it, but almost," said Giglio resident Giuseppe Modeste. "But eventually this wreck will be taken away."

The ship owner, Costa Crociere SpA, is a unit of Miami-based Carnival, the world's largest cruise line operator.