Italy is marking the 10th anniversary of the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster with a day of commemorations that will end with a candlelit vigil marking the moment the ship hit a reef and capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio.
A Mass in Giglio’s church will honour the 32 people who died in the incident on January 13 2012, while survivors and relatives of the dead will place a wreath in the water where the liner finally came to rest on its side.
The anniversary will also recall how the residents of Giglio gave shelter that night to the 4,200 passengers and crew, and then lived with the Concordia’s wreckage for another two years until it was righted and hauled away for scrap.
On Wednesday, those residents gave a warm welcome to Kevin Rebello, whose brother Russel, a Concordia waiter, remained unaccounted for until crews discovered his remains while dismantling the ship in 2014 in a Genoa shipyard.
Kevin Rebello had become close to many Giglio residents during the months that divers searched for his brother, and his return to the island on the last ferry of the day on the eve of the anniversary turned into an emotional reunion.
“My brother did his duty. He lost his life protecting other people,” he said as he arrived on Giglio. “I am proud of this. And I think he would be proud of what he did, helping so many people.”
The anniversary comes as the cruise ship industry, shut down in much of the world for months because of the coronavirus pandemic, is once again in the spotlight because of Covid-19 outbreaks that threaten passenger safety.
The US Centres for Disease Control last month warned people across the board not to go on cruises, regardless of their vaccination status, because of the risks of infection.
For Concordia survivors, the Covid-19 infections on cruise ships are just the latest evidence that passenger safety is still not a top priority for the industry.
Passengers aboard the Concordia were largely left on their own to find life jackets and a functioning lifeboat after the captain steered the ship too close to shore in a stunt.
He then delayed an evacuation order until it was too late, with lifeboats unable to lower to the water because the ship was listing too heavily.
Passenger Ester Percossi recalled being thrown to the ground in the dining room by the initial impact of the reef on the hull, which she said felt “like an earthquake”.
She said the lights went out, and bottles, glasses and plates flew off the tables and onto the floor.
Prosecutors blamed the delayed evacuation order and conflicting instructions given by crew for the chaos that ensued as passengers scrambled to get off the listing ship.
The captain, Francesco Schettino, is serving a 16-year prison sentence for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning a ship before all the passengers and crew had evacuated.