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Islanders threaten to sue cruise ship owners

The passengers on the cruise ship are not the only ones affected by the disaster. THE islanders of Giglio are threatening to sue Costa Cruises and its American parent company because of fears that the presence of the crippled Concordia liner will ruin their summer tourist season and deter big-spending celebrities.

The head of the rescue and salvage operation on the island said at the weekend that it will take at least a year to refloat the liner or cut it into sections for scrap.

Islanders, who rely on tourism for their livelihoods, fear that the sight of the ship and the risk that its fuel tanks could rupture and pollute Giglio’s waters will deter holidaymakers, divers and snorkellers. They have called for an emergency meeting to discuss the impact of the salvage operation on the economy of the island, which lies off the coast of Tuscany.

”If the recovery of the Concordia goes badly, it will be us islanders who pay. We’re warning Costa Cruises and Carnival that they must remove the ship quickly, without polluting the sea, otherwise we’ll hit them with a class action,” Fabio Agugliari, a spokesman on Giglio, told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Islanders are also concerned that, with so many salvage boats using the port, there will be no room for the yachts and cruisers of their rich customers.

”Where the Concordia lies, is where Briatore [the Italian businessman], Valentino?… and Sarah Ferguson moored,” said Giovanni Rossi, a port official.

About 1,000 people live on the island in the winter. That figure can rise to 15,000 in the summer, when flats are rented for up to euros 2000 ($A2464) a week.

”With this watery grave in the middle of the sea, people won’t want to come,” said Paolo Fanciulli, who owns the Hotel Bahamas. ”I have long-standing customers who are writing to me to cancel their bookings,” he said.

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