The Costa Allegra, a cruise ship with over 1,000 people on board, is adrift without power in the Indian Ocean after a fire broke out in the engine room earlier today. Once the fire, which has now been extinguished, was started, a distress signal was sent out. Rescue efforts are underway as two tug boats, a motorboat, and a plane from the island country of Seychelles are en route to the imperiled vessel. The earliest assistance is expected to arrive by tomorrow morning. Currently, the ship is upright and stable, and emergency generators have kept the ship’s communications equipment running, according to an official from Costa Crociere (known as Costa Cruises in English), the cruise line to which the Costa Allegra belongs.
The Costa Allegra has 636 passengers and 413 crew members on board, and all are reportedly safe. The passengers are being kept in the ship’s main communal rooms, as opposed to their cabins, and they will likely spend tonight on the ship’s outside decks. The ship is located in an area of the Indian Ocean that is known for pirate attacks, adding urgency to the rescue operations. However, nine members of the Italian military are on board the ship, and these armed soldiers could help protect passengers from piracy, although no pirates have been seen in the area of the Costa Allegra, according to news reports.
Just six weeks ago, another ship in Costa Cruises’ fleet, the Costa Concordia, hit a reef and began to sink off the coast of Isola del Giglio, Italy. The Costa Concordia was the largest passenger ship ever wrecked, and so far 25 people have been confirmed dead as a result of the disaster. Another seven passengers are missing, but they have long since been presumed dead. The Costa Concordia tragedy has been largely blamed on the captain of that vessel, Francesco Schettino, who stands accused of abandoning ship and manslaughter. Animosity toward Schettino only increased after a transcript of the exchange between the captain and the Italian Coast Guard, which occurred as the ship filled with water, came to light shortly after the accident.
Costa Cruises, which is owned by Carnival, is in the midst of a public relations crisis of the first proportion, one that will likely only get worse given the news out of the Indian Ocean today.