Terrifying cruise wave ordeal
Barcelona - Freak waves that smashed into a Mediterranean cruise ship flooded people's cabins, broke windows in a restaurant and terrified many travellers in an ordeal that claimed two lives, a passenger said on Thursday.
Claude Cremex, 73, of Marseille, France said he was in his cabin resting because of the rough seas when the walls of water hit the Cypriot-owned Louis Majesty, which was carrying 1 350 passengers and 580 crew members off the coast of north-eastern Spain.
The ship's owner and operator, Louis Cruise Lines, said the vessel was struck on Wednesday by three "abnormally high" waves more than 10m high that broke glass windshields in the forward section.
Two people died and 14 were slightly hurt, the company said.
Cremex said he did not see the waves himself but later viewed the damage.
"It was spectacular," he told The Associated Press as the ship sat docked at Barcelona's port with passengers sunning themselves on deck the day after the accident.
"A lot of water came in. Many cabins were flooded," said Cremex, who was travelling with his wife. "Many people were very frightened."
Louis Cruise Lines spokesperson Michael Maratheftis said 14 passengers who suffered only minor injuries were taken to hospital as a precaution.
Arrangements have been made to fly all 1 350 passengers back home on Thursday and the ship will carry on with its normal cruise schedule later this month after repairs are completed, he told the AP from Cyprus.
Maratheftis said the two dead passengers suffered fatal injuries from the glass shards and ripped-out window frames and furniture.
"It was three waves, one after the other. The damage was done by the second and the third waves. We are talking about waves that exceeded 10m in height. This was unforeseen and unpredicted because the weather was not really that bad," Maratheftis said.
A Louis Cruise Lines statement said the waves smashed windows in a public area on deck 5 on the forward part of the vessel. It said the passengers killed were German and Italian.
The ship was on a 12-day cruise from the ports of Genoa and Marseilles in the western Mediterranean, calling at Tangiers, Casablanca, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Cadiz, Cartagena, Barcelona and had been due to return to Genoa on Thursday.
"Louis Cruises extends its sincere condolences to the families of the two victims and its full support to the injured passengers while expressing its deep sorrow for the incident," the statement said.
Maratheftis said many passengers have already left the ship to return home.
Louis Cruise Lines' website says the ship is 207m long, and features 10 passenger decks and 732 staterooms along with various bars, pools, restaurants and shops.