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Stricken liner 'to dock tomorrow'

Passengers aboard the Costa Allegra cruise liner that was left without power after a fire are expected to reach land on Thursday.

The vessel, which is operated by the same company involved in the Costa Concordia tragedy, was cast adrift in the Indian Ocean after the blaze broke out in an electric generator room on Monday.

The stranded travellers - who include 31 Britons - were earlier being towed to Desroches, a small, coral-lined island in the Seychelles, and were due to reach it by Wednesday morning.

However, Costa Cruises later announced they could not disembark there as it was not safe enough and the ship would instead be taken to the main Seychelles island of Mahe.

The change of plan was disclosed after guests had been asked to prepare their luggage so as to be ready for the earlier time of disembarkation.

Gilbert Faure, the chief executive of the Seychelles' civil aviation authority, said that planes are being lined up to fly the passengers of the stricken vessel back to Rome almost immediately after arriving in port between 6am and 7am (2am to 3am GMT) on Thursday.

Mr Faure said three aircraft with seats for at least 540 passengers will depart to Rome within hours of the Costa Allegra's arrival at Mahe.

The company said in a statement: "Costa Cruises informs that in view of extensive and accurate checks carried out with local maritime experts' support, in order to ensure the safety of our guests on board, the disembarkation on Desroches island cannot be performed and therefore it has been decided that the ship will be towed to Mahe/Seychelles."

Costa Cruises said helicopters would ensure the continuous supply of food, comfort items and flashlights to "mitigate guests' discomfort given the difficult conditions on board".

The ship was being towed by the French ocean fishing vessel Travignon and two tugs after its engines, lights and air conditioning were left with no power. The incident came after the Costa Concordia cruise liner, also operated by Costa Cruises, struck rocks off the west coast of Italy on January 13, leaving a death toll expected to reach 32.


From Belfast Telegraph