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Stricken Costa Allegra passengers sleep on deck in 35C heat

By Michael Day in Milan

More than 1,000 passengers and crew will spend another night aboard the stricken cruise ship the Costa Allegra as it is towed slowly to port by a French tuna-fishing vessel.

Attempts to land the luxury liner at the nearest island of Desroches in the Seychelles had to be abandoned last night after it emerged that it was too dangerous to disembark at the tiny dock.

Helicopters delivered fresh food, satellite phones and torches to passengers forced to camp out on deck in the sweltering heat. Those on board — including more than 30 Britons and an Irish passenger — have been coping since a fire broke out in the engine room on Monday, knocking out electricity supplies and leaving the ship without power.

Air conditioning has stopped working on the ship and temperatures are 35C even outside on deck. Conditions in the cabins are said to be intolerable.

The vessel is under the command of Captain Nicolo Alba (48) in only his second voyage as skipper. Among those on board is British dancer Rebecca Thomas, whose brother James survived the capsize of the Costa Concordia.

Her mother, Jayne Thomas, said she had had no contact with her daughter since learning about the fire.

“I thought it was a one-off and we wouldn't be going through this experience again,” she said.

“Of all the ships that are sailing in the ocean, the two that have come into difficulties in the last few weeks have been the two that my children were on.

“I have no feelings towards the company,” she told the BBC. “I think it's just a twist of fate that they've both been involved in two such unfortunate incidents.”

Costa Cruises, which also owns the Concordia, which foundered off the coast of Italy last month with the loss of 32 lives, said there was no danger despite concerns the Indian Ocean waters it is sailing in are vulnerable to pirate attack.

The vessel is being protected by nine armed members of an anti-piracy unit of the Italian navy, the company said.

The authorities in Seychelles expect the liner to arrive in the former British colony's main island of Mahé, more than 200 miles away, by tomorrow morning.

Factfile

The Allegra, whose Italian name means “merry” or “happy”, left northern Madagascar on Saturday and was cruising |towards Port Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles, when the fire took hold.

The region where the vessel was adrift, off the coast of |Tanzania, has seen a rash of attacks by Somali pirates.

However, an armed nine-member Italian military team on anti-pirate duty was aboard the Allegra and fears of attacks were played down.

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