Costa Concordia salvage to go ahead

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Media captionThe BBC's Alan Johnston: "It is an engineering project on the most enormous scale"

A daring attempt to pull the shipwrecked Costa Concordia upright will go ahead on Monday, Italian officials have confirmed.

The Civil Protection agency said the sea and weather conditions were right for the salvage attempt.

Engineers have never tried to move such a huge ship so close to land.

Thirty-two people died when the cruise ship hit rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio in January 2012. It has been lying on its side ever since.

Five people have already been convicted of manslaughter over the disaster, and the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, is currently on trial accused of manslaughter and abandoning ship.

Huge challenge

The salvage operation is due to begin at 06:00 (04:00 GMT) on Monday, and it is being described as one of the largest and most daunting ever attempted.

The head of the operation, Nick Sloane, told AFP news agency that it was now or never for the Costa Concordia, because the hull was gradually weakening and might not survive another winter.

Engineers will try to roll the ship up using cables and the weight of water contained in huge metal boxes welded to the ship's sides - a process called parbuckling.

This procedure must be done very slowly to prevent further damage to the hull, which has spent more than 18 months partially submerged in 50ft of water and fully exposed to the elements.

Image caption Special prayers were said for the salvage operation

More boxes will then be attached to the other side, and the water will be replaced with air to add buoyancy, allowing the vessel to be towed away and broken up for scrap.

If the operation goes wrong, environmentalists warn that toxic substances could leak out into the sea.

For the people of Giglio, the salvage operation will be an important moment - and a special prayer was said during Sunday Mass.

The small island's economy depends hugely on tourism and the presence of the wreck has discouraged visitors.

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Media captionHow the Costa Concordia capsized

The salvage project has so far cost more than 600m euros ($800m; £500m) and could cost a lot more by the time the operation is complete.

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