After 19-hour effort, Costa is upright

In an unprecedented maritime salvage operation, engineers on Monday gingerly wrestled the hull of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia off the Italian reef where the cruise ship has been stuck since January 2012.

Engineers declared the crippled Costa Concordia cruise ship completely upright after a 19-hour operation to pull it from its side where it capsized last year off Tuscany.

Finally above water: Twenty months after it was submerged, the starboard side became visible for the first time. Rust and grime covered the stricken side of the ship after it was lifted from its watery grave. Pics/AFP

Shortly after 4 am Tuesday, a foghorn rang out on Giglio Island and the head of Italy’s Civil Protection agency, Franco Gabrielli, announced that the ship had reached vertical and that the operation to rotate it was complete.

Applause rang out among firefighters in the tent where Gabrielli and other project engineers made the announcement.

Officials said there was no apparent pollution in the waters around the ship as a result of the operation.

“I think the whole team is proud of what they achieved because a lot of people didn’t think it could be done,” said salvage master Nick Sloane.

The engineers had originally planned to complete the operation by Monday evening, but it had to be delayed by three hours because of a storm.

Officials now plan to fully inspect the vessel and begin to prepare the next stage -- the effort to repair and refloat it and eventually tow it away to be destroyed.

“It’s not over yet,” said salvage master Sloane.

Engineers have never tried to lift such a huge ship -- over 951 feet long before.  

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