1,000 passengers on stricken ship left to face pirate seas
Published 29/02/2012 | 05:00
The 1,000 passengers and crew on board the crippled Costa Allegra are having to endure a journey through waters prowled by pirates, without hot food, lights or air-conditioning after a plan to disembark them at a nearby island resort was scrapped yesterday.
Helicopters dropped food, torches and emergency supplies to the ship as it was towed through the Indian Ocean to Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles, by a tuna trawler.
Costa Cruises, which owns the liner, had said the vessel would be taken to the atoll of Desroches following a fire that left the ship without power.
However, the four-mile island is ill-equipped to handle the evacuation, so the Allegra will be towed to the island of Mahe, more than 200 miles away. It is expected to arrive by tomorrow.
The change of plan means the liner's 1,050 passengers and crew will have to endure night temperatures of 31C, no air conditioning and limited lighting as it is towed by the Trevignon, a deep sea tuna trawler based in the French Atlantic port of Concarneau, at a speed of about six knots.
The ship is also being escorted by a patrol ship from the Seychelles coast guard, with an aircraft circling overhead, to guard against attacks by pirates.
The plan to land at Desroches was abandoned after the company said that trying to get the passengers into lifeboats, then across a reef to the shore, was too risky. The island also has just one resort with 24 rooms and 24 beach villas.
Flying the passengers and crew from Desroches to Mahe would also have been a lengthy process, because only planes with a capacity of 20 can land on the island.
"Helicopters will ensure a continuous supply of food, comfort items and torches in order to mitigate guests' discomfort given the difficult conditions on board," the firm said.
Supplies were dropped by ZilAir, a helicopter company in Victoria. A spokesman said: "There were people on deck and they were obviously happy to see that we were coming with food."
Desroches is being used as a transit point for supplies. Mark Leslie, the resort manager, said: "It is very basic food: whatever they can drop by air."
Jane Cartlidge, whose son Joshua (23) is a dancer on the ship, said she would be relieved when the liner reached safety. "The area where they are is dodgy with the risk of pirates," she said.
Several Costa officials who are dealing with the Allegra are under investigation for their role in the Costa Concordia disaster off the Italian island of Giglio last month. They include Roberto Ferrarini, from the crisis management unit, Paolo Parodi, the fleet superintendent, and Manfred Ursprunger, the firm's vice-president. (© The Daily Telegraph, London)