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Rome (AFP) Sept 15, 2013
Italian officials have given the go-ahead for an unprecedented salvage operation to lift the 114,500-ton Costa Concordia cruise ship from its side on Monday.
"Parbuckling operations of the Costa Concordia will begin tomorrow," the civil protection agency, which is overseeing the 600 million euro ($798 million) project, said in a statement on Sunday.
Parbuckling is the technical term for lifting a ship that is lying on its side into a vertical position, with later plans to refloat the cruise liner and tow it away.
Salvage workers say the ship has to be removed as soon as possible before autumn storms further weaken the hull, 20 months after the giant luxury liner crashed and keeled over just off the tiny island of Giglio in Tuscany, claiming 32 lives.
China luxury cruise trapped in S. Korea over financial row
The 47,000-tonnes cruise Henna -- carrying some 1,600 passengers and 650 crews -- has been held at South Korea's southern resort island of Jeju since its arrival on Friday.
The luxury liner set off from China's northeastern port of Tianjin on Friday to sail around the Korean peninsula before returning six days later.
But a Jeju court banned the ship from leaving after a seizure request was made by Hong Kong-based Shagang Shipping following a "dispute," the Beijing-based operator of the ship, HNA Cruise, said in a statement.
The company did not elaborate on the details of the dispute.
A South Korean agent of HNA Cruise told AFP it had chartered eight flights using a 290-seat capacity plane between Jeju and Beijing throughout Sunday.
"Hundreds" were leaving via flights on Sunday while some others may choose to return home in the ship when it is released, the agent added.
HNA Cruise was in the process of paying a deposit of 3 billion won ($2.7 million) to the Jeju court to secure the release of the ship, Yonhap news agency said.
The Chinese company was also preparing compensation plans for the passengers, HNA Cruise said in the statement on Saturday.
A growing number of Chinese tourists have visited neighbouring South Korea, especially the southern island of Jeju.
About 2.8 million Chinese visited the South in 2012, nearly a quarter of some 11 million foreigners who travelled the country last year.
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