By Antonio Denti
GIGLIO, Italy (Reuters) - Residents of this Tuscan island and relatives of victims of the Costa Concordia disaster prayed and ships' horns sounded on Friday to mark the six months since the cruise liner ran aground, killing 32 people.
Church bells pealed in the port section of the island at 9:42 p.m. (1942 GMT), the time the 114,500-tonne vessel hit rocks on January 13 after its captain Francesco Schettino brought it too close to shore.
One of those who came to the island for the remembrance service was Elio Vincenzi, who lost his wife Maria Grazia.
She had been on the cruise with their daughter and insisted the girl leave on one of the first lifeboats to be launched. It was the last time they saw each other.
Maria Grazia was one of two passengers whose bodies have not been found.
"My wife and I both loved the sea. The sea did not take my wife from me, human stupidity did," he said.
Schettino, the captain, faces charges of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all 4,200 passengers and crew were off.
He was released from house arrest on July 5. Shortly afterwards he went on television to apologize.
Vincenzi is due to go with divers on Saturday to leave a plaque on an underwater rock as his personal memorial to his wife.
"My daughter and I both have diving permits but three days before coming here she told me she just couldn't cope with it," he said.
Vincenzi said his dive on Saturday will be "my embracing my wife again".
Earlier on Friday afternoon residents and relatives of victims, some from other countries, attended a mass in memory of the dead.
"It is a bitter memory in certain aspects but in other aspects it gives us hope because of the spirit of solidarity which it gave us," said Bishop Guillermo Borghetti, referring to the islanders' efforts to help passengers on the night of the tragedy.
On the cold night of the disaster, the church was opened and residents took in the shipwrecked.
A huge chunk of rock which had been lodged in the ship's hull was cut and lifted out by crane on Friday and is due to be taken to the island, where part of it will become a memorial to the victims.
It had to be removed in order for the ship, which has lain on its side since the disaster, to be rotated upright before being towed away.
The salvage operation is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
(Reporting by Antonio Denti and Silvia Ognibene; writing by Philip Pullella; editing by Andrew Roche)