Costa Concordia's Rusty Hulk Embarks On A Final Voyage

More than two years since it ran aground off an Italian island and killed 32 people, the Costa Concordia cruise ship is finally up and away. Cocooned in stabilizing containers that act as floats, the crippled ship is headed to Genoa, where it will be broken up for scrap.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The Costa Concordia began its final voyage today. More than two years after it capsized off the Italian island of Giglio. 32 people died. Its destination now is a scrapheap in the port of Genoa. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: The Costa Concordia is floating thanks to a straitjacket of 30 flotation tags. But before her final voyage, she was accorded the rituals of the seaworthy vessel she once was. The flag flying from her mast was the blue peter, signifying all aboard.

(APPLAUSE)

POGGIOLI: At mid-morning today, groups of salvage workers were turned to port on rubber dinghies, shouting their joy and sense of triumph. After 30 months of grueling 24/7 work shifts, the Costa Concordia had been freed from here her moorings and was ready to sail again. Behind them spewed giant plumes of spray, the water version of fireworks, to celebrate the start of her final voyage. The wreck of the 115,000 ton vessel, the size of three football fields, has haunted this tiny island since the night of January 13, 2012, when a brazen maneuver by the Captain the ship hit a reef and capsized a few hundred yards from shore. A chaotic evacuation followed and 32 people lost their lives, one body has yet to be recovered. Today Giglio Islanders could not help but celebrate the ship's departure. Boats sounded their fog horns and sirens. Church bells chimed in to salute the departing ship. Security measures include a perimeter with a three- mile radius at sea and a no-fly zone above. But reporters, TV crews and photographers were given the opportunity to follow her up close. The ship is being towed by two tugboats traveling at a speed of two knots. She's escorted by convoy of another 12 support ships, that include salvage experts, environmental and pollution response teams. Nets have been attached to the bow of the ship to prevent tons of potential debris and toxic substances from falling into the sea. There's also great concern about the native inhabitants of the waters of the Tuscan Archipelago. The convoy includes a boat whose purpose is to spot marine mammals, whales, dolphins and monk seals, as she sails through Europe's largest marine sanctuary. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, island of Giglio.

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