4,500 Passengers Stuck On Carnival Cruise Ship
News from The Associated Press
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The nearly 4,500 passengers and crew of the Carnival Splendor have no air conditioning or hot water. They are low on food. And for at least another 24 hours, they have no way out. What began as a seven-day cruise to the picturesque Mexican Riviera stopped around sunrise when an engine room fire cut power to the 952-foot vessel and set it adrift off Mexico's Pacific coast.
No one was hurt and, by Tuesday, U.S. Navy helicopters were ferrying 70,000 pounds of supplies, including boxes of crab meat, croissants and Spam, to the stricken ship.
Mexican tugboats, meanwhile, were rushing out to the vessel to begin towing it 150 miles to the port of Ensenada, about 50 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border. The Splendor could reach the port as early as late Wednesday.
Accidents like the engine room fire are rare, said Monty Mathisen, of the New York-based publication Cruise Industry News.
The last major cruise accident was in 2007 when a ship with more than 1,500 people sank after hitting rocks near the Aegean island of Santorini, Mathisen said. Two French tourists died.
"This stuff does not happen," he said. "The ships have to be safe, if not the market will collapse."
The Splendor, which left from Long Beach on Sunday, was 200 miles south of San Diego at the time of the engine fire, according to a statement from Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines. It began drifting about 55 miles off shore.
The 3,299 passengers and 1,167 crew members were not hurt and the fire was put out in the generator's compartment, but the ship had no air conditioning, hot water, cell phone or internet service.
After the fire, passengers were first asked to move from their cabins to the ship's upper deck, but eventually allowed to go back to their rooms. The ship's auxiliary power allowed for toilets and cold running water.
Bottled water and cold food were provided, the company said.
The temperature in the area was 62 degrees and there were scattered clouds, according to the Coast Guard.
Toni Sweet, of San Pedro, Calif., was frustrated when she couldn't reach her cousin aboard the ship. She said she called her cell phone and did not get an answer.
"We know everything is fine, but we're just worried," Sweet said. "She was nervous about going on a cruise ship even before this happened and now with this, I don't think she'll ever go again."
Carnival spokeswoman Joyce Oliva said the ship's command is able to communicate with outsiders on a backup system.
On Tuesday, U.S. sailors loaded cargo planes with boxes of crab meat, croissants and other items for the stranded passengers. They were to be ferried to an aircraft carrier at sea, where helicopters will pick them up and drop them on the ship.
The Splendor only had enough food to last through midday Tuesday, Navy Commander Greg Hicks said. Food was being brought in because refrigerators on the ship stopped working after the power was knocked out.
"Without being there and I'm glad I'm not, I think they're probably uncomfortable," Coast Guard Capt. Tom Farris said. "They're being protected from being burned by the sun and kept warm."
The tugboats were expected to arrive back at the port with the ship around 8 p.m. PST Wednesday, Coast Guard Petty Officer Kevin Metcalf said. Metcalf said the tugs and a Coast Guard cutter escort must move slowly because the ship is so big.