Stricken liner ’stable and upright’

The Costa Allegra cruise liner, stranded in the pirate-infested Indian Ocean after a fire aboard, is stable and upright while being pushed by the current, officials said.

The Costa Allegra cruise liner, stranded in the pirate-infested Indian Ocean after a fire aboard, is stable and upright while being pushed by the current, officials said.

Captain Giorgio Moretti told reporters during a conference call at the Costa Crociere cruise line headquarters in Genoa that the fire in the ship’s generator room had left it without power, knocking out air conditioning and lights.

Capt Moretti said the Allegra, which is carrying more than 1,000 people, is adrift, “and being pushed by currents. It is stable and upright”.

Tugs will arrive from the Seychelles tomorrow afternoon and decide which port to tow the Allegra to.

Officials said the blaze was extinguished without causing injuries.

The fire occurred only six weeks after one of its sister ships, the Costa Concordia, hit a reef and capsized off Italy, killing 25 people and leaving seven missing, presumed dead.

Both ships are operated by Costa Crociere SpA, which is owned by Florida-based Carnival Corp.

Tug boats from the island nation of Seychelles are steaming to the powerless liner, which is carrying 636 passengers and 413 crew members, but Italian coastguard officials said a large French ocean fishing boat could be the first vessel to reach the stricken cruise liner late on Monday night.

The officials, who are in regular contact with the Allegra’s crew, said emergency generators are keeping the ship’s command room illuminated and instruments such as its radio functioning. But the rest of the ship apparently was dark as night fell.

The officials said the cruise liner was holding steady, despite 5ft waves and that the passengers were being kept in the ship’s large communal rooms, not their cabins.

The general region where the cruise ship is adrift – off the coast of Tanzania - has seen a rash of attacks by Somali pirates, but they have never hijacked a cruise ship.

Mr Nicastro said armed anti-piracy military personnel were aboard, but he added that there appeared to be no immediate danger of pirates. Attention was being focused on rescue efforts, he said.

Seychelles presidential spokeswoman Srdjana Janosevic said: “If pirates attack, the armed guards on board will respond. But as far as I am aware, no pirates have been sighted in the area.”

Costa Crociere, which is based in Genoa, Italy, said in a statement that its ship was about 20 miles from Alphonse Island, one of the atolls in the Seychelles.

The Allegra had left northern Madagascar, off Africa’s south-east coast, on Saturday and was cruising toward the port of Victoria, Seychelles’ capital, when the fire erupted. Costa said the Allegra had been due in Victoria on Tuesday.

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