Disabled Costa Allegra: Cruise Liner Inches Toward Seychelles

PHOTO: The Costa Allegra cruise ship is seen at sea near the Seychelles. Disabled by an engine fire, the cruise ship is being towed and should reach land March 1,2012, according to a spokesman for Costa Cruises, Feb. 28, 2012.
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The Costa Allegra luxury cruise liner that lost power in the Indian Ocean after a fire broke out in its engine room is now being pulled by two tugboats and a French fishing vessel toward the main island of Mahe in the Seychelles.

According to Genoa Costa Crociere headquarters, the ship is currently traveling at about 6 knots and is expected to arrive in Mahe early Thursday morning.

In a statement today, the company said that a helicopter would deliver 400 flashlights and fresh bread to the more than 1,000 passengers and crew Wednesday. This morning a helicopter brought food and communication devices, including satellite phones and VHF radios.

A small generator brought by a Navy ship was reportedly being used by the ship's crew to "restore basic services on board." The news release said that despite the heat and humidity, "a slight breeze" was making the situation more comfortable.

The company also said that a "Care Team" of 14 executives, managers and technicians also had reached Mahe to prepare for the disembarkation. A smaller "Care Team" group also planned to travel to the liner Wednesday by way of the Navy vessel to speak with crew and passengers.

The Allegra was initially being towed to the island of Desroches before officials ruled the small island lacked the necessary security conditions.

According to the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica, the passengers spent the night on the outdoor decks as ordered by the captain, after temperatures inside soared. The paper also reported that the AIS system had been turned off to avoid detection by pirates and that there is no hot water.

Guests were invited to prepare their luggage in order to be ready for the time of disembarkation, the company said.

Jayne Thomas of England, whose daughter is a performer on the crippled Allegra, said she was happy that the situation appeared to be under control.

"I'm not worried now," she told the BBC today. "I know that the ship's under tow. ... They obviously are not taking any passengers any further than the island so that's good news for me. It means I'll get my daughter home."

The company issued a statement overnight saying that the guests onboard the ship, which left Madagascar Saturday, were being kept continuously informed and assisted by the captain and the onboard staff and that a cold breakfast had been served this morning.

Eight American citizens are on board the vessel, which is carrying 636 passengers and 413 crew members on a nearly monthlong cruise with numerous stops at island nations off the east coast of Africa along the way to Savona, Italy.

The majority of the passengers are European, though 15 Russians, 13 Canadians and two Brazilians are also aboard. Nine members of the Italian Navy are also on board, tasked with security against pirates.

The Italian cruise line had released a statement Monday saying no one was injured and the blaze that broke out in the engine room in the ship's aft had been quickly extinguished.

"The passengers and crew are in safe condition," Cmd. Cosimo Nicastro of the Italian coast guard said Monday. "They are not necessarily comfortable because the ship only has emergency power on board, but they are safe."

The Costa Allegra is also known as the "crystal ship" because of the huge glass windows on its deck. It is the oldest and smallest of the Costa fleet.

This is the second emergency situation this year for Costa Cruises, which is owned by Carnival Cruise Lines. In January, 25 people are known to have died and seven are still missing and presumed dead after the Costa Concordia capsized after hitting rocks off the Italian island of Giglio.

Fuel transfer operations are still underway on the Concordia, which lies on its side in the sea outside the island's port.

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