Relatives mark Concordia anniversary

2013-01-13 21:35
 Flowers laid by relatives of the 32 victims of the Costa Concordia cruise shipwreck float on the sea off the Tuscan Island of Isola del Giglio, Italy. (Gregorio Borgia, AP)

Flowers laid by relatives of the 32 victims of the Costa Concordia cruise shipwreck float on the sea off the Tuscan Island of Isola del Giglio, Italy. (Gregorio Borgia, AP)

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Giglio Island - Grieving relatives of the 32 victims of the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster laid flowers by the giant wreck on Sunday in an emotional one-year anniversary commemoration on the Italian island of Giglio to try and heal the wounds of the tragedy.

Salvage workers on a tugboat also used a crane to lower into the sea a piece of the enormous rock that the Costa Concordia crashed into and then tore from its base before veering sharply and keeling over with 4 229 people from 70 countries on board.

A ship's horn sounded out 32 times under a leaden sky in memory of those who died, echoing across the water as the rock slowly descended into the sea and tearful families looked on from another ship.

"I want justice for my family and for all the victims," said Susy Albertini, mother of a five-year-old girl who perished with her father.

Twelve of the victims on the luxury liner were from Germany, seven from Italy, six from France, two from Peru, two from the United States, one from Hungary, one from India and one from Spain.

Survivors of the disaster who came for the ceremony re-lived the panic of that night, when hundreds had to jump into the freezing waters, clamber down a rope ladder in the dark or be evacuated by helicopter after several lifeboats failed to deploy.

"We came because we wanted to express our gratitude. We survived," said Ronald Dots, who was with his wife and son when tragedy struck.

"It was a painful night and at first we cried a lot. Even now, when I see the sea I shake," he said.

French passenger Daniele Dubuc broke down in tears upon stepping off a ferry - the first time she had been back on a ship since that night.

Captain coward

Dubuc said she and her husband loved ballroom dancing and had enjoyed dances on the cruise, but "the tragedy has made us lose the will to dance".

Many said they also came to thank local residents who rushed to pluck shivering survivors from the water and bring them food and blankets.

Ten people are being investigated including the ship's infamous captain Francesco Schettino - who is accused of reckless seamanship and abandoning the ship early - and three executives from owner Costa Crociere, but a trial is still months away.

"From last 13 January and for the rest of my life I will always have something in my heart that will tie me to that event and to the families of the victims," Schettino said in a television interview from his home in southern Italy where he has been confined pending the investigation.

Costa Crociere, Europe's biggest cruise operator, had asked passengers in a letter to stay away from the ceremony on the island because of a lack of space, infuriating many survivors.

Costa Crociere said it would mark the day by holding masses in the chapels of all its vessels around the world and flying their flags at half mast.

Among those attending the ceremony on Giglio was coast guard official Gregorio De Falco, who upbraided Schettino with an expletive in a phone call when the man dubbed "Captain Coward" refused to get back on the ship to aid the evacuation.

Scrap

At a mass in the same church that served as a temporary refuge for many survivors, objects from the ship were put on display - a life jacket, a rope, some bread and a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Of the 32 people who died that night, two - an Indian waiter and an Italian passenger - are still officially missing.

Elio Vincenzi, whose wife's body has never been found, could hardly speak for tears as he presented the island with a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Kevin Rebello, who is still searching for his brother's body, gave the island a plaque with four lions on it, the emblem of India - which he said stood for power, courage, pride and confidence, characteristics "also shared by Giglio".

The 290m liner crashed into a group of rocks just off Giglio, veered sharply and keeled over just as many passengers were sitting down for supper on the first night of a Mediterranean cruise.

Salvage workers on Saturday said an unprecedented $400m operation to refloat and remove the ship for scrapping will be completed by September.

Read more on:    costa concordia  |  italy  |  cruise liner disaster
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