Costa liner towed to island after fire
Victoria, Seychelles, February 28, 2012
A cruise liner owned by the same company as the capsized Costa Concordia was being towed by a French fishing ship on Tuesday to an island near the Seychelles, after an engine room fire left it adrift in the Indian Ocean.
Costa Cruises said the fire on the Costa Allegra had been put out and none of the 636 passengers and 413 crew were hurt. The cause of the blaze was still unclear.
"Costa Allegra, since tonight, is being towed by the French ocean vessel Trevignon, route direction is Desroches Island," Costa Cruises spokesman Davide Barbano said in a statement.
Desroches Island is about 230 km (145 miles) southwest of Mahe, the main island in the Seychelles archipelago. The island has pristine white beaches, a hotel and luxury villas.
The giant Costa Concordia capsized on January 13 after hitting rocks off the Italian island of Giglio, killing at least 25 people. Divers and rescue workers are still searching for the bodies of seven missing people.
The much smaller, 29,000-tonne Costa Allegra was sailing some 200 miles southwest of Seychelles when the fire broke out and it sent a distress signal, the company said.
Giorgio Moretti, the head of Costa Cruises nautical operations, told reporters in a conference call that there was light aboard ship thanks to an emergency battery but no air conditioning or cooking facilities.
He said passengers would be given bread, water and fruit until a helicopter arrived on Tuesday with more provisions.
The passengers are from 25 different nations, including four children, with the largest contingents being 127 from France and 126 from Italy. There are 38 Germans, 31 Britons, 13 Canadians and eight Americans on board.
Seychelles Tourism Authority chief executive Alain St Ange said the plan was to fly the stranded tourists to Mahe from Desroches, though accommodation in the capital Victoria would be stretched by the influx.
"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.
Seychelles is an archipelago nation in the Indian Ocean northeast of Madagascar with a population of just over 80,000.
The Costa Allegra left Diego Suarez in Madagascar on Saturday and had been due to dock in Victoria on Tuesday.
It is being protected by nine members of an "anti-pirate" unit of the Italian navy, a precaution regularly taken on ships in the Indian Ocean which is prone to attacks by Somali pirates.
While yachts have been seized in the past near Seychelles, Somali pirates have yet to attack a cruise liner.
"The ship is not in a high-risk area, but we can't be 100 percent sure," said Costa Cruises' Moretti.
Seas in the area were moderate with winds gusting at 25 knots, the Italian coastguard said in a statement.
Costa Cruises said the passengers were "all in good health and, having been promptly informed of the situation, were assembled at the muster points as a precaution". - Reuters