Nearly 4,500 passengers, crew stranded on cruise ship off Mexico

Nearly 4,500 passengers and crew on a seven-day cruise to the Mexican Riviera were stranded off the coast of Mexico after an engine room fire cut power to their ship. Tugboats and an aircraft carrier were headed out to help Tuesday. The Carnival Splendor was some 320 kilometres south of San Diego when the fire started early Monday morning, according to a statement from Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines. It was extinguished with no injuries to the 3,299 passengers and 1,167 crew members. The 290-metre ship has auxiliary power, but air conditioning, hot food service, hot water and telephones were knocked out. Toilets and cold running water were restored Monday night, the cruise line said. Passengers were first asked to move from their cabins to the ship's upper deck, but eventually allowed to go back to their rooms. Bottled water and cold food were being provided, the cruise line said. The vessel was drifting about 90 kilometres off of the northern Baja California coast. Tugs were expected to reach it at midday to tow it to Ensenada. Passengers will then be bused back to the United States. The ship was in contact with the U.S. Coast Guard, which deployed aircraft and ships. Coast Guard Lt. Khris Johns, who was on a cutter at the scene, told NBC television that it will take two tugs about 24 hours to bring the ship to port. "But right now with the current conditions and what we saw onboard the cruise ship, that's about the safest way to proceed as it stands now," he said. The U.S. navy was also diverting the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan from training manoeuvres to help. A plane was to drop off 35 pallets of supplies on the carrier that will be delivered to the cruise liner by helicopter, the navy said in a statement. The voyage, which began in Long Beach, was cancelled and guests will get refunds, reimbursement for transportation costs and a free future cruise of equal value, the cruise line said. "We know this has been an extremely trying situation for our guests and we sincerely thank them for their patience," Carnival president and CEO Gerry Cahill said in the statement. "Conditions on board the ship are very challenging and we sincerely apologize for the discomfort and inconvenience our guests are currently enduring." Originally Posted at: The Associated Press

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