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A year on, engineers still ponder how to salvage Costa Concordia wreck

Crews have been working 24 hours a day, building structures around the sunken Costa Concordia in an effort to remove it from off the coast of Italy's island of Giglio. A year later, those who were on board are still coming to terms with the accident that killed 32 people. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

ISOLA DEL GIGLIO, Italy -- A day before the one-year anniversary of the Costa Concordia wreck, a lengthy press conference Saturday is yielding frustratingly little news.

In this ongoing saga with many interconnected parts, it seems we've reached the point where it is just a waiting game for each painstakingly delicate phase of the removal operation to reach a point at which it's sufficient to finally move on to the next.

Engineers working on the massive salvage project -- the likes of which the world has never seen -- said Saturday that the wreck was now stable. 


It is not moving, despite the fact that very little of it is actually touching the rock below. It's balancing on two peaks, basically, but has been tethered to the shore to keep it from sliding off the underwater cliff. It rests at a 65-degree angle.

September is when they expect to roll it over -- a moment the world is waiting to see. The question remains whether it possible to do this without the gigantic, 1,000-foot hull breaking apart?

No one is certain, but engineers say they are confident and that they "believe in this project."

Floats 11 stories high
The crews will have one chance only to get this right. Once the ship starts rolling upright, it cannot be stopped -- even if things start breaking down.

Engineers say it will surely be a noisy process -- as structures within the ship twist and collapse from the strain.

Engineers will do pre-checks for 2 to 3 days before that huge, slow roll upright, which will take approximately 6 to 8 hours.

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The Costa Concordia, carrying more than 4,200 passengers, ran aground Jan. 13 off the coast of Italy killing 32 people - including two Americans.

The Concordia, of course, was not designed to take such pulling stresses on its hull, so certain areas will need to be reinforced, before cables and chains can pull it, finally, into the position in which it was designed to float.

By then, gigantic steel floats -- empty rectangular containers, some 11 stories high -- will have been welded all around the ship.

It's a treacherous environment there, jutting out of the sea -- crews working around the edge of the exposed hull had to take a mountain climbing course, to prepare.

After the operation is complete, the Costa Concordia meet its final fate -- to be towed away and scrapped.

In the meantime, every day, 24 hours a day, at least 400 workers from 19 countries together work on the preliminaries of this monster task.

It is very cold now, and conditions still difficult.  Storms, and the waves they spawn, make everyone nervous.  Divers can only stay underwater for 45 minutes at a time.

But they keep going, as survivors and families of those lost arrive back on this tiny island one year later.

Some carry flowers. Some are stunned to see the ship still lying in the same position.

But the structures built around it are impressive, and are starting to dwarf even the colossal disaster itself.