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Costa Concordia wreck draws new wave of 'disaster tourists'

2:03 AM, Aug 29, 2012   |    comments
By Gregorio Borgia, AP Tourists relax on rocks in front of the Costa Concordia wreckage on the Giglio Island, Italy, on July 12, 2012. Works have begun to remove the tons of rocky reef embedded into the Concordia cruise ship's hull, a first step in plans to eventually tow the wreck away from the island, where it ran aground last January. The whole removal process could take as long as a year.
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By Laura Bly, USA TODAY
This week's news that the capsized Costa Concordia won't be moved from its watery grave off Italy's Tuscan coast as quickly as planned comes amid a boom in day-trippers eager to get a glimpse of the doomed cruise liner. The ship ran aground near Giglio Island last Jan. 13 with 4,000 people aboard; 32 were killed.

Locals say hotel bookings and vacation rentals are down on Giglio, in part because of Italy's economic crisis. But the picturesque island - so off-the-beaten-track that most guidebooks mention it in passing, if at all - is drawing a new breed of visitor.

Ticket touts in Santo Stefano, about 10 miles east of Giglio, sell sightseeing boat trips to the wreck for as little as $12 - and "there has been a rise in the number of tourists coming for the day, with curious people taking photos of the giant sprawled on the rocks," mayor Sergio Ortelli told AFP.

Giglio's environment official, Alessandro Centurioni, told AFP he hoped the wreck would be removed as soon as possible.

"The Concordia has become part of our landscape, but it has also spoiled it," he said. "Every time I see it, I feel the pain and sadness once more."

Giglio is part of Europe's largest marine sanctuary, whose seven islands have drawn Christian hermits and pirates. Rocky, uninhabited Montecristo inspired Alexandre Dumas to write The Count of Montecristo, while Napoleon was exiled to Elba.

Meanwhile, investigators continue their probe on why the ship was sailing so close to the island at high speed, and why the evacuation was delayed for more than an hour after the crash. Captain Francesco Schettino is suspected of abandoning ship before the evacuation was completed.

No trial is expected before the beginning of 2013 at the earliest.

USA TODAY

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