Blaze-hit passengers back on dry land

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Passengers on the cruise ship Costa Allegra finally stepped on to dry land yesterday after three days at sea without power.

British High Commissioner Matthew Forbes was at the port of Victoria in the Seychelles to greet the 31 UK citizens who were among the 627 passengers aboard the Italian vessel.

The passengers had had to contend with dismal conditions on board after a fire in a generator room on Monday knocked out all power on the vessel.

The ship is part of the Costa Cruises fleet which included the Costa Concordia, which hit rocks and turned on its side off the coast of Italy in January, claiming 32 lives.

No one was injured in the fire earlier this week on the Costa Allegra but the vessel, which was sailing from Madagascar towards the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, had to be towed by a French fishing vessel.

Passengers endured extreme heat and have been living on bread and cheese, with no electricity or washing facilities.

The Seychelles Red Cross set up several tents at Victoria to assist passengers while tour operators waited with buses ready to take passengers to either the airport or a Seychelles resort.

It is understood around 370 passengers opted to stay in the Seychelles with the rest being flown to Rome.

Travel agents flocked to the port, waiting to help. “The focus of the operation is to get them a warm meal and a shower,” said Guillaume Albert, head of Seychelles-based Creole Travel Services.

He went on: “I think the happy ending is the people coming off the boat.”

The average age of passengers was 55, he said.

One passenger told how she had existed on white bread and salami “morning, noon and evening”.

She said passengers had been sunbathing on deck when suddenly there was “terrible black” smoke and passengers had got their lifejackets and assembled at their muster stations.