Concordia sister ship stranded in pirate seas after blaze
Published 28/02/2012 | 05:00
A cruise liner from the same fleet as the stricken Costa Concordia was adrift in an area of Indian Ocean known for piracy last night after a fire broke out in its engine room.
More than 1,000 passengers and crew, were stranded on the Costa Allegra as it drifted, without engine power, 320km to the south-west of the Seychelles.
Two French trawlers were on their way to the 600ft liner with the aim of giving the vessel emergency power before tugs reach the ship and tow her to safety.
The general region where the ship was adrift -- off the coast of Tanzania -- has seen a rash of attacks by Somali pirates, but they have never hijacked a cruise ship. Claudio Izzi, the Italian consul in the Seychelles, said a security detachment of nine Italian marines were on board and were "well trained and ready to protect civilians".
The incident comes just six weeks after the Costa Concordia ran aground and capsized off the Italian island of Giglio, with the loss of at least 25 lives. Both ships are owned by the Genoa-based company Costa Cruises.
The smaller, 29,000-tonne Costa Allegra had left the port of Diego Suarez in Madagascar on Saturday and had been due to dock in Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles, today.
Officials said there were no injuries from the fire, which was believed to have been caused by an electrical fault.
But the ship was left without power and adrift about 32km off Alphonse Island, a far-flung atoll which is part of the Seychelles, forcing the captain to send out a distress signal.
"The fire-extinguishing system and procedures were promptly activated and special fire-fighting squads intervened to extinguish the fire," Costa Cruises said in a statement.
The first of the two French trawlers was expected to arrive on the scene last night. Two tugs and a naval vessel from the Seychelles were also on their way.
Joel Morgan, the Seychelles' home affairs and transport minister, said the ship was without propulsion, light and power. "What we understand is that there's been an engine fire and the entire ship is disabled," he said.
"There are other vessels in the area who are expected to rendezvous with her very soon. They will provide back-up, in terms of helping to provide stand-by power for lights and communications, until our tugs get there.
"The idea then is that she would be towed into Port Victoria by the two tugs, with a military escort. That could take some time, we're not expecting her to Victoria before Wednesday. We are also making provisions to put up the 1,000 people on board once they get to shore."
The Costa Allegra has eight passenger decks and 400 cabins and can carry up to 1,400 people. It was on a cruise of the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, with the voyage due to end in Savona, near Genoa, next month. (© Daily Telegraph, London)