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The Italian island of Giglio has asked for at least €80m (£68m) in compensation for “irreparable damages” done to its economy and image by the Costa Concordia grounding off its coast.

At the beginning of preliminary hearings held in the Tuscan town of Grosseto, a lawyer for Giglio’s council said it had formally requested compensation from Costa Cruises, the owner of the liner.

Alessandro Maria Lecci said “obvious irreparable damages” had been done to Giglio’s “identity, to its natural touristic vocation and to its image which is destined from now on to be associated with this tragic event”.

Thirty-two people, including a four-year-old girl, died when the liner ran aground off the coast of Giglio in January 2012. Francesco Schettino, the ship’s captain, attended the hearing on Monday. He will soon find out whether he has to stand trial for manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing a shipwreck.

His lawyer, Francesco Pepe, rejected the idea that Schettino caused the crash through negligence. “This was an accident at work,” he told reporters. “You cannot criminalise a man because he had an accident while working.”

Prosecutors asked for five other people – four crew members and a manager with Costa Cruises – to face trial for what they argue was a botched emergency response.

The company argues that it should be allowed to seek damages for the loss of the liner. Its lawyer Marco De Luca argued on Monday that “apart from the victims, Costa is the one that suffered the most”.

Photo Credit: The capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia lies surrounded by cranes outside Giglio harbour. Stefano Rellandini / Reuters