Stricken Costa sister cruise ship towed after engine room fire
STRICKEN Italian cruise vessel the Costa Allegra, which started drifting in the Indian Ocean with more than 1,000 passengers on board following an engine room fire, is being towed to a nearby island, the Seychelles tourism authority said.
The Costa Allegra is owned by the same company that operated the Costa Concordia, which ran aground off the Italian island of Giglio last month with the loss of at least 25 lives.
"It is now being towed to Desroches Island where there is a luxury resort and passengers can at least take a shower before they are flown to Mahe," Seychelles Tourism Authority Chief Executive Alain St Ange said.
Desroches Island is about 144 miles southwest of Mahe, the main island in the Seychelles archipelago.
He said, however, there may not be enough accommodation or flights out of Seychelles, an archipelago with a population of just over 80,000.
"We are in talks with the ship's agent regarding what to do next but we are making plans to fly them here, although we do not have enough hotel accommodation for all the passengers since we already have heavy bookings because of an international carnival due to start on Friday," he said.
St Ange said the next move would be to fly Costa Allegra's 636 passengers and 413 crew out of the country, but he feared there may not be enough seats on the four flights scheduled to leave the country on Tuesday.
The tourism board head said arrangements would be made to tow the cruise liner to Mahe "but it will take a day or two to reach here".
The luxury liner left the port of Diego Suarez in Madagascar on Saturday and was due to arrive in Mahe in the Seychelles on Tuesday.
There were no injuries from the fire, which has not spread to other parts of the vessel.
The ship had been without power and adrift about 20 miles off Alphonse Island in the Indian Ocean.
“The shipboard fire-extinguishing system and procedures were promptly activated and the special fire-fighting squads intervened to extinguish fire,” parent company Costa Cruises said in a statement.
“As a precaution, the general emergency alarm was given and all passengers and crew members not engaged in the management of the emergency reached the muster stations with the relevant safety equipment.
“Inspections on the state of the engine room are on-going, in order to restart the necessary equipment to reactivate the functionality of the ship.”
The ship sent out a distress single and alerted naval authorities, including the Maritime Rescue Control Centre in Rome.
“Costa Crociere and the relevant authorities are acting to provide the ship with the necessary support. Costa Allegra is going to be reached by tugs and other naval and aerial units,” the company said.
On board the ship are 636 passengers of various nationalities and 413 crew members.
The 600ft-long ship was built in Genoa in 1992. It has eight passenger decks and 400 cabins and can carry up to 1,400 people.
The Costa Allegra was on a month-long cruise of the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.
After leaving from Port Louis in Mauritius it made its way to Madagascar. It was then due to head to the Seychelles, Oman, Egypt and Jordan before ending its voyage in Savona near Genoa in Italy next month.
Two web cameras on board the ship, which normally transmit live pictures, were shut down earlier on Monday.
There are 212 Italians on board – 126 passengers and 86 crew. The nationalities of the rest of the passengers and crew are not yet known.
Shares in Carnival, the American company that owns Costa Cruises, fell by nearly two per cent on the New York Stock Exchange on news of the accident.
The accident comes weeks after the 950ft-long Costa Concordia rammed into rocks off Giglio, forcing the night-time evacuation of 4,200 passengers and crew.
The death toll from the disaster stands at 25, with seven people still missing.