The shipwrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship was successfully refloated in Italy on Monday in preparations for it to be towed away for salvage.
Salvage workers began the work Monday of raising the rusty liner from its watery grave off the Tuscan island of Giglio where it sank in a nighttime disaster 2.5 years ago, leaving 32 people dead.
The full refloating will take about a week before it is towed to Genoa for dismantling.
The ship rolled onto its side when it sank.
It was pulled upright last September in a difficult operation known as "parbuckling" to prepare it for the refloating process.
In what has become one of the largest salvage operations in history, air was pumped into 30 large metal boxes, or sponsons, attached around the hull of the 114,500 ton ship. The air forced out the water in the sponsons, lifting the vessel off the underwater platform.
"The boat is now floating with its sponsons attached," said Franco Porcellacchia, the engineer in charge of the salvage.
"The ship is upright and is not listing either longitudinally or latitudinally. This is extremely positive," he told a news conference six hours after the operation began.
◆ Salvage Costs
Ship owner Costa Crociere estimated the cost of the salvage so far at $1.4 billion, with millions more budgeted for the scrapping contract.
The area where the ship sank is a marine sanctuary -- a haven for dolphins and whales. Environmentalists have warned about the dangers of toxic waste or fuel leaking into the sea as the ship is raised and towed.
Italy's environmental minister told reporters that the operation will only be finished when the ship is successfully transported to the port of Genoa for scrapping. Towing is set for later this month.
The Costa Concordia was the largest Italian passenger ship ever built. It was 2.5 times as heavy as the Titanic.
It had four swimming pools, 13 bars, the largest spa center on any cruise ship, and a nine-deck-high, glass-doomed lobby.
The ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, is on trial for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the vessel before all passengers had been evacuated.
Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.