Costa Concordia rescuer relives tragedy

Mario Pelligrini was at home on the Tuscan island of Giglio on January 13, 2012, one of just a few hundred residents living there through the winter.

He was deputy mayor, and the carabinieri military police called him late that night.

A cruise ship, the Costa Concordia, was listing dangerously on its side just off the rocks near the port.

Pelligrini joined the rescue boats bringing terrified passengers ashore and clambered aboard the ship to help. It was rocking. Water was pouring in. Metal screaming.

He still relives what he saw.

"The thing that has stayed with us are the eyes of the children, that is the thing that remains. The sensation that when people have terror and are afraid, it is like the image of the Titanic, people who are lost, people who need help. These faces, afraid, terrorized, that is what has remained. But I am happy that I returned home for my children."

Thirty-two people died; two of them found only a year later.

The floating hotel, as long as three football pitches, struck a rock that tore a 35 meter gash in its hull and capsized soon afterwards.

But they brought 4,200 passengers to safety over the next few hours.

And that helps Pelligrini live with the memories.

"I was very emotional. But I also asked myself if I had done everything I could, if really I had managed to leave no-one behind. And after a certain time asking myself this, I said: we couldn't do much, we couldn't do more. And we did what we could."

Following a long court case, captain Francesco Schettino was found guilty of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning passengers in one of the highest-profile shipping disasters in recent years.

He'd brought the ship too close to shore and was handed 16 years in jail in 2015.

The Costa Concordia's hulk wallowed on its side in the waters off Giglio, a popular holiday destination, for two-and-a-half years before it was righted and towed away.

A candlelit commemoration on the rocks will mark the moment the Costa Concordia struck, on Thursday (January 13), the tenth anniversary.

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