Phillippines cruise ship drifting after fire

Phillippines cruise ship drifting after fire

A cruise ship with about 1,000 people on board was drifting in waters south of the Philippines today after a fire disabled its engines, the Philippine coast guard said. Five crew members were injured.

The fire on the Azamara Quest started late Friday, a day after the ship left Manila for Sandakan, Malaysia, and was immediately put out, said coast guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Algier Ricafrente.

The ship was carrying 590 passengers and 411 crew members, he said.

The ship’s operator, Azamara Club Cruises, said in a statement that no passengers were injured in the fire, which was in one of the ship’s engine rooms and was immediately extinguished. But five crew members suffered smoke inhalation, including one who was seriously injured and needed hospital care.

Azamara Club Cruises is part of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, which along with competitor Carnival Corp has seen bookings drop after high-profile cruise accidents this year. In January, Carnival’s Costa Concordia capsized off the coast of Italy, killing 32 people.

Two Philippine coast guard vessels and a patrol boat were expected to reach the Azamara Quest late today to offer assistance, Ricafrente said. The vessel was about 75 nautical miles south west of the Philippines’ Tubbataha Reef when the coast guard received the report of the fire from a local ferry and a towage company in Manila.

There was no direct contact with the ship’s crew, Ricafrente said, adding that the coast guard would investigate why Philippine authorities did not receive any distress call during the fire.

The cruise company’s statement said the ship was running on emergency power in “calm seas” near Indonesia’s Borneo Island.

Engineers have restored power to one of the ship’s engines to re-establish air conditioning, running water, plumbing, refrigeration and food preparation, the company said.

“While the ship does not have propulsion capabilities at this time, it is in the process of being repaired,” it said.

The company said the rest of the ship’s voyage would be cancelled.

The vessel left Hong Kong on Monday for what was supposed to be a 17-day cruise. The ship was scheduled to make port calls in Manila and Sandakan, as well as several stops in Indonesia, before arriving in Singapore on April 12.

It was the latest accident in the cruise industry since 32 people died when the Costa Concordia ran aground and capsized off the western coast of Italy in January.

A month later, a fire on the Costa Allegra left that ship without power and adrift in waters known to be prowled by pirates in the Indian Ocean for three days. Both Costa ships are part of Costa Crociere, SpA, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise operator.

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