Two elderly passengers died during the evacuation of
the the Achille Lauro, which was carrying nearly 1,000 people
when it began burning in the Indian Ocean off Somalia. A
third died aboard a rescue vessel and a fourth was never
found. The fire had broken out in one of the engine rooms
of the ship, which was owned by Italy's Starlauro.
1994: Blazing liner abandoned off east Africa
Almost 1,000 people have been forced to abandon a luxury
cruise ship in the Indian Ocean after it caught fire.
The Achille Lauro - which made headlines in 1985 when it
was hijacked by Palestinian guerrillas - was sailing 50
miles off the Somali coast when the fire started in one
of the cabins.
Two people died and eight were injured during the transfer
of passengers from life rafts to a waiting tanker, according
to Coastguard officials.
Flames are licking halfway up the vessel
Tanker captain Dimitrios Skapinakis
Starlauro, the ship's Naples-based owners, said it had not
established the cause of the blaze but confirmed it did
not suspect foul play.
Crew battled with the flames for almost seven hours as
passengers - many of whom had paid £2,500 for the
trip - gathered on deck.
The captain gave the order to abandon ship at 0500 local
time (0200 GMT) after the fire began to burn out of control.
Panamanian registered tanker Hawaiian King was the first
of a dozen ships which answered the Achille Lauro's dawn
SOS call and rescued most of the passengers.
As night fell, most of the survivors were recovering on
the tanker, which had been supplied with extra food by the
US Navy cruiser Gettysburg.
It is expected they will now be taken to the Kenyan port,
Mombasa, or the Seychelles, which would have been the liner's
next port of call.
Dimitrios Skapinakis - captain of another tanker involved
in the rescue operation - told reporters he thought the
ailing 24,000 ton ship would sink within the next 12 hours.
"The Achille Lauro is listing by at least 40 degrees
and you can still see smoke and flames - the passenger decks
on the stern side are burning and flames are licking halfway
up the vessel," he said.