An explosion and fire in the boiler room of a cruise ship docked in Florida killed at least three crew members and injured 20 others, eight critically.
Yesterday’s blast did not cause any injuries among the 2,000-plus passengers.
The explosion, believed to be an accident, occurred on Norwegian Cruise Line’s SS Norway, a historic ship that has been churning the oceans for the better part of 40 years. The Norway has been a regular visitor to Ireland, stopping off at Cobh.
Launched as the SS France, it was once in keen competition with the famed Queen Elizabeth 2 on the transatlantic run.
The US Coastguard reported that four crew members died, but Miami-Dade County officials said only three deaths had been confirmed.
There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.
Fifteen crew members were brought to Jackson Memorial Hospital and eight of them were in a critical condition, spokeswoman Victoria Zambrano said.
Victims were taken to other hospitals, but Miami-Dade officials would not say which ones.
The Norway came into the Port of Miami at the end of a week-long Caribbean cruise at around 5am local time, with 2,135 passengers and 911 crew members on board, port director Charles Towsley said.
The fire began about two hours later, the result of an explosion that was probably caused by a steam leak, Miami-Dade Police Director Carlos Alvarez said.
The force of the explosion tossed four crew members through an open cargo bay door into the water, Alvarez said.
They were hauled back into the ship with a rope ladder.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue workers put out the fire in about an hour, Coastguard Petty Officer Anastasia Burns said. “So far, it looks like it was just an accident,” she said.
Ken Hunt, 81, said he was in his cabin when he heard the explosion.
“I didn’t pay any attention at first, I thought we just hit the dock. But then the lights went out,” he said.
The evacuation went smoothly, although the passengers were not told what was going on, Hunt said. Once off the ship, the passengers squeezed into a customs hall to wait.
The Norway was due to sail again later yesterday, but that cruise was cancelled so officials could examine the damage, Norwegian Cruise Line spokeswoman Susan Robison said.
Passengers will be given a refund and voucher for another trip.
Launched as the SS France in the early 1960s, it was the longest – if not the largest – passenger ship afloat.
At 1,035 feet, it was four feet (1.2 meters) longer than the Queen Elizabeth, and 153ft longer than the tragic Titanic.
It is too long and too wide for the Panama Canal.
The Norway has 12 guest decks, eight lounges and bars, two swimming pools and a casino, among dozens of other amenities.