Investigations on fire-stricken Allegra

2012-03-02 12:45

Victoria - Technicians began investigations on the crippled Italian cruise liner Costa Allegra on Friday, as tourists recovered on the Seychelles' white-sand beaches from their three-day ordeal on the fire-stricken ship.

No sign could be seen on the outside of the vessel of the fire that knocked out power, forcing more than 1 000 passengers and crew to don life jackets and prepare to abandon ship in pirate-infested waters of the Indian Ocean.

"The investigations are going on now, it's a large vessel so it will take some time to have any idea what caused the fire or why the back-up generator failed," said Seychelles coastguard commander Georges Adeline.

"Technicians flew in especially to work on the ship. We tried attaching it to a generator on the port-side but there is still no power so the crew are staying in hotels."

The ship drifted for several hours before being taken into tow by a French deep sea fishing boat, and limped into Victoria port on Thursday guarded by coastguard vessels to ward off armed pirates from lawless Somalia.

Italian investigators and representatives of the ship's owners Costa Crociere, which also operated the doomed Costa Concordia that ran aground in January off Italy with the loss of 32 lives, met the boat on the dock.

Captain Niccolo Alba insisted Thursday he had followed "all the international rules on emergencies", but said a diesel-powered emergency generator had worked for only a few hours before breaking down.

Sweltering temperatures

Frightened passengers spent most of the time crowded on the Costa Allegra's decks fighting sweltering temperatures since the fire had left the ship without lighting, electric toilets and air-conditioning.

The Costa Allegra had left Madagascar last weekend and was on its way to the Seychelles when the fire broke out. After the Seychelles, the liner had been due to travel through the Red Sea to the Mediterranean.

About third of its 627 passengers chose to fly home on Thursday evening on chartered aircraft, with the rest remaining to enjoy a holiday on the Indian Ocean archipelago, famed for its turquoise seas and palm-fringed beaches.

Seychelles tourism board director Alain St Ange said those who remained were now "enjoying the beauty of Seychelles".

All the passengers will get their ticket, travel costs and on board expenses refunded and will receive "an indemnity equivalent to the amount of the fare paid for the cruise and associated travel expenses," Costa Crociere said.

The 30% who are not staying on will also receive a voucher for the same value as their unfinished cruise for a free trip on any Costa cruise.

The streets of Victoria were busy Friday ahead of its annual three-day carnival which starts on Saturday, where colourful parades and live music shows are set to take place.

Those who left late Thursday said they were relieved to be going home, describing the panic among passengers when they feared they would have to get into life boats and leave the ship.

Exhausted and angry passengers also said the grim conditions in following days without power and washing facilities were "atrocious".

However, it was not all misery: 82-year-old Aldo decided to leave the Seychelles for home in Italy, but said the journey had not been all bad.

"I've had a fantastic time, the drama was great in spite of all the inconveniences," he said, enjoying a beer before his flight home.

"This sort of thing keeps you young. I'll certainly be going on a cruise again."