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Costa Concordia wreckage to be cleared by September, officials say

One year after the Costa Concordia liner crashed in Italy, its wreckage remains off the Tuscan coast.

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A dog lies on a small wall as the stricken cruise liner Costa Concordia lies aground in front of Giglio Island on Jan 27. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

One year after the Costa Concordia crashed off the coast of Italy, killing 32 people, officials are still struggling to remove the luxury liner's wreckage. 

On January 13, 2012, the ship — which was carrying 4,229 passengers on a Mediterranean cruise — hit a reef off the coast of the island of Giglio. 

The town residents and the cruise's survivors, however, have had to look at the reminder of the accident all year, as salvagers and engineers struggle with the "unprecedented challenge" of removing a ship twice as big as the Titanic and the length of 11 football fields, Sky News reported.

They are now expecting the wreck to be removed by September, though have cautioned against a hard-and-fast deadline. 

“In all honesty, when I saw the project, I didn’t have doubts about the fact that it could be delayed, I was sure about it,” said Emilio Campana, the director of the research institute for naval and maritime engineering at Italy’s National Research Council, according to the New York Times. “An operation of such a scale has never been done before, and they are trying to solve a never-tackled issue.”

The removal's cost has also skyrocketed from an initial estimate of 300 million euros to 400 million euros, or over $530 million, Sky reported. 

Giglio, still haunted by the crash, has faced a decline in tourism, which it depends on economically — it was down 28 percent last year, according to WPTV — though the Costa has also become an odd eyesore of a tourist attraction itself. 

As Sky News pointed out, 

Since the tragedy, the Costa Concordia has turned into a macabre tourist attraction, with hundreds of sightseers catching a ferry from Porto Santo Stefano to Giglio so they can look at the ship and take pictures before returning to the mainland.

“We are worried, of course, for the overlapping of the removal phases with what is our main economic activity,” said Sergio Ortelli, the mayor of the island of Giglio, according to the New York Times“We are thinking how to mitigate the effects of a working site this year, which has had an even larger impact than the wreckage itself.”

Meanwhile, the island is planning a commemoration of the disaster for Sunday. It will include a mass for the families of both victims and survivors, as well as a dedicated plaque on the rock hit by the ship and a release 32 lanterns into the sky, the New York Times reported. 

More from GlobalPost: Costa Concordia: fuel removal process is completed

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/italy/130112/costa-concordia-wreckage-to-be-cleared-september