The disabled Costa Allegra cruise ship is expected to reach the Seychelles’ main port just after dawn tomorrow, an aviation official said today.
The stricken liner, with more than 1,000 people on board, is being towed to land after losing power on Monday when a fire broke out in its generator room.
Gilbert Faure, the chief executive of the Seychelles’ civil aviation authority, said today that planes are being lined up to fly the passengers of the stricken vessel back to Rome almost immediately after arriving in port between 6am and 7am tomorrow.
Mr Faure said three aircraft with seats for at least 540 passengers will depart to Rome within hours of the Costa Allegra’s arrival at the Seychelles’ main port, Mahe.
Mr Faure said the first plane is tentatively scheduled to leave for Rome tomorrow afternoon.
“It could all depend because they have been at sea for three days. They may want to take a shower, we are not sure,” he added.
“I can assure you that we are doing our best to ensure that they have a nice few hours in the Seychelles.”
The Costa Allegra lost power on Monday after a fire broke out in its generator room, setting the Italian cruise ship adrift in a region where Somali pirates have long been active.
A French fishing vessel began towing the Allegra, at first to a small, nearby island, but later to the Seychelles main port – Victoria. Two Seychelles tug boats are escorting the cruise ship.
Officials said the more than 1,000 passengers and crew on board the Allegra would have overwhelmed the resources on the tiny resort island, Desroches.
Monday’s fire came only six weeks after the Allegra’s sister ship Costa Concordia hit a reef and capsized off Italy, killing 25 people and leaving seven missing presumed dead. No one was injured in the fire on Monday, but passengers have been without power, communications and air conditioning since the accident.
The ship’s operator, Costa Crociere SpA, said it expected a helicopter to deliver 400 flashlights and fresh bread to the passengers today. The operator said the ship has sufficient food and that a small generator delivered by a navy ship – it did not specify from which country – could help restore basic services and “to make the situation on board more comfortable”.
Two tug boats arrived alongside the cruise ship yesterday but the slower French fishing vessel continued to tow it.
The Allegra, whose Italian name means “merry” or “happy”, left northern Madagascar, off Africa’s south-east coast, on Saturday and was cruising toward Port Victoria when the fire erupted. Costa said the Allegra had been due in Port Victoria yesterday..
The liner is carrying 413 crew members and 636 passengers, including 212 Italians, 31 Britons and eight Americans. Four passengers are children age three or younger.