VIDEO: Watch Costa Concordia being refloated off the coast of Italy
Two and a half years after it ran aground with catastrophic consequences, the Costa Concordia is being refloated.
The final phase of the salvage effort, during which the ship will be towed to a port and broken up for scrap, is one of the biggest maritime salvage operations in history.
Costa Concordia, which hit rocks off the island of Giglio with the loss of 32 lives in 2012, is resting on a specially constructed platform of steel girders and thousands of sacks of cement.
In an operation that started this morning, air is being pumped into the 30 giant boxlike compartments welded to its hull, forcing out seawater and raising the vessel by about 36ft.
Four decks of the ship will emerge from beneath the waves for the first time since it ran aground.
Weather permitting, it will then be towed from Giglio on Sunday. It will come as an immense relief to islanders, for whom the sight of the ship has been a constant reminder of the tragedy.
But there will be little cause for celebration, according to Sergio Ortelli, the mayor of Giglio. "Once the ship is removed from our island, no one will be celebrating because even after two years, the tragedy of what we witnessed remains," he said.
The salvage operation comes in the middle of the tourist season, and locals are concerned that it will deter holidaymakers.
There are fears that once the ship begins to leave the island, pulled by four tugs, it could release a noxious soup of rotting food, chemicals and decomposing fittings.
Activists from Greenpeace Italy and members of Legambiente, an Italian environmental organisation, will shadow the ship in a small boat as it is towed the 200 miles to Genoa.