GENOA, ITALY – Ship horns blared Sunday as the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner limped into the Italian port of Genoa to be scrapped 2½ years after it capsized in a tragedy that claimed 32 lives.
The hulking vessel — about twice the size of the Titanic — was towed into port after a four-day, 280 km (175 mile) journey from the disaster site off the Tuscan island of Giglio.
“This is not a runway show. It’s the end of a story in which many people died, which none of us will ever forget,” Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said as he gazed up at the ship’s towering white flanks, tinged with rust, looming over the quayside.
“I have come to say thank you to those who have done something that everyone said was not possible,” he said.
Fears that the damaged hull would break up under the strain, spilling toxic waste into Europe’s biggest marine sanctuary, proved unfounded, and dolphins joined the convoy of environmental experts in welcoming the ship into Genoa.
Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti said it was time to “finally breathe a sigh of relief.”
The former luxury liner arrived overnight Saturday and weighed anchor around two nautical miles offshore, where engineers attached it to several tugboats that maneuvered it into Genoa’s Voltri port.
“It’s a beautiful sight, exceptional. We’re really emotional and proud,” said one of a group of engineers who spent months preparing the ship for its final voyage.
Crowds of curious locals gathered to see the remains of the battered ship, which crashed into rocks off Giglio island in January 2012 while carrying 4,229 people from 70 different countries on board.
Interior furnishings and fittings will be stripped out to make the vessel light enough to tow into the scrapping area, where it will be divided into three parts for dismantling.
Workers will start by removing what is left of beds, televisions, fridges and sofas in once-resplendent cabins and glitzy restaurants, bars and casinos.