Saturday, March 2

Italy marks 10 years since the Costa Concordia ship disaster

Italy will mark the 10th anniversary of the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster on Thursday with a day-long commemoration.

Thirty-two people were killed when the ship crashed into a reef and capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio.

The events will end with a candlelight vigil at 9:45 pm when the ship hits the reef.

It will also honor the 4,200 survivors and residents of Giglio who welcomed passengers and crew, offering clothing and shelter until the passengers could return to the mainland.

“For us islanders, when we remember an event, we always mean whether it was before or after Concordia,” said Matteo Coppa, who was 23 years old and was fishing off the jetty when the darkened Concordia leaned toward shore and then collapsed on its side. in water.

“I imagine it as a nail driven into the wall that marks that date, like a before and after,” he said, recounting how he joined the rescue efforts that night, helping to land stunned, injured and injured passengers. frozen from lifeboats.

The ship would remain off the island’s coast for another ten years until it was retired in 2014.

The sad anniversary comes as the cruise industry, closed in much of the world for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is back in the limelight due to virus outbreaks that threaten passenger safety.

For Concordia survivor Georgia Ananias, COVID-19 infections are just the latest evidence that passenger safety is not yet a top priority for the cruise industry.

“I always said this would not define me, but you have no other choice,” Ananias said in an interview from her home in Los Angeles, California. people died. ”

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Prosecutors blamed a delayed evacuation order and conflicting instructions given by the crew for the chaos that ensued as passengers rushed off the ship.

The captain, Francesco Schettino, is serving a 16-year prison sentence for involuntary manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning a ship before all passengers and crew have evacuated.

Ananías and her family rejected the initial $ 14,500 compensation Costa offered each passenger and sued Costa, a unit of US-based Carnival Corp., to try to cover the cost of their medical bills and stress therapy. posttraumatic they have suffered. But after eight years in the US courts and then in Italy, they lost the case.

“I think people should be aware that when they travel on a cruise ship, if there is a problem, they will not have the justice they may be used to in the country they live in,” said Ananías, who was to become a senior official. from the International Association of Cruise Ship Victims, an advocacy group that lobbies to improve safety on board ships and increase transparency and accountability in the industry.

Costa did not respond to emails seeking comment on the anniversary.

The International Association of Cruise Lines, the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, emphasized in a statement to The Associated Press that passenger and crew safety was the industry’s top priority, and that cruise ships they remain one of the safest vacation experiences available.

“Our thoughts remain with the victims of the Concordia tragedy and their families on this sad anniversary,” said CLIA. He said he has worked for the past 10 years with the International Maritime Organization and the maritime industry to “promote a culture of safety.” which is based on continuous improvement. “

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For the mayor of Giglio, Sergio Ortelli, the memories of that night run the gamut: the horror of seeing the overturned ship, the struggle to coordinate rescue services ashore, the recovery of the first bodies, and then the pride that the islanders took the opportunity to attend. to the survivors.

Ortelli was later present when, in September 2013, the 115,000-ton, 300-meter-long cruiser righted itself vertically from its graveyard at the bottom of the sea in an extraordinary feat of engineering. But the night of the disaster, a Friday the 13th, remains etched in his memory.

“It was a night that, in addition to being a tragedy, had a beautiful side because the people’s response was a spontaneous gesture that was appreciated around the world,” Ortelli said.

It seemed natural at the time. “But then we realized that that night, in just a few hours, we did something incredible.”

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