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Costa Concordia Lift 'To Cause Huge Damage'
Salvage officials have warned the stranded Costa Concordia will bend and suffer enormous internal damage as jacks hoist it off rocks with enough pressure to lift two Eiffel Towers.
But they remain confident the ship's hull will remain intact as 56 massive chains tighten around it on Monday, avoiding the nightmare scenario of the 114,000 tonne vessel shattering and spilling its contents into the waters around the Italian island of Giglio.
"The ship will probably bend during the operation and metal inside will buckle," said Sergio Girotto, project manager for Micoperi, the Italian firm which has teamed-up with US company Titan to raise the Costa Concordia.
The cruise liner capsized in shallow water 20 months ago after smashing into rock, causing the deaths of 32 passengers.
Salvage workers and local authorities confirmed on Sunday that good weather would allow the 10-12 hour operation to start just after 6am on Monday.
"We have 12,000 tonnes of pressure to use, which would lift two Eiffel Towers, but I hope we will only need five or six thousand," he said.
That will depend how firmly the ship is wedged onto two pinnacles of underwater granite where it came to rest on the night of January 12, last year, prompting the panicked evacuation of 4,200 passengers and crew.
The two outcrops, which are embedded six metres into the hull of the ship, are the great unknown at the heart of the ?600m (£503m), "parbuckling" operation, which will see the ship hoisted by jacks on to a bed of 1,000 cement bags and six underwater platforms bigger than a football pitch.
Franco Gabrielli, who has supervised the Italian government's role in the operation, told reporters ahead of the salvage attempt that the operation had a 100% chance of success.
The ship is due to be hauled 65 degrees back to upright position during a 10-12 hour operation.
Within the first hour or two, the ship should be wrenched free from the two granite outcrops it is impaled on, said Franco Porcellacchia, an engineer working on the salvage for ship owner Costa Cruises.
Four to five hours will then be needed to pull the ship upwards before gravity takes over, and its final descent into an upright position, also taking four to five hours, is controlled by adjusting the buoyancy of the massive metal tanks attached to its sides.
A 12-man team will control the pulleys and tanks from a barge close to the wreck.
Marine biologist Giandomenico Ardizzone, who has been monitoring the sea bed for the ship's operator Costa Crociere, said he had dived under the vessel on Saturday to fix cameras on the points where the rocks plunge into the hull.
"We have been told to get ready for loud noises during the lifting," said Mr Ardizzone.
Mr Ardizzone said that as 29,000 tonnes of water pours out of the ship as it is pulled upright, an even greater amount, 43,000 tonnes, will enter the ship.
"That means less of the ship will be visible out of the water after the parbuckling," he said.
What does come out will be polluted water that has swilled inside the ship for months in a mix of residual fuels, heavy metals and rotten food, including over three tonnes of melon, 500 litres of olive oil, 14,000 packets of cigarettes, 18,000 bottles of wine, eight tonnes of beef and over 11 tonnes of fish.
Mr Ardizzone said the quantities of heavy metals and fuels were too small to create concern for the surrounding protected marine park, a view shared by Maria Sargentini, the head of a public commission set up to monitor the operation.