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Prosecutors Investigate Fire On Italian Cruise Ship

Italian prosecutors on Wednesday began investigation into the fire that disabled 'Costa Allegra' cruise ship in the Indian Ocean off the Seychelles earlier this week.

The probe opened in Genoa where the ocean liner's operator Costa Cruises has its headquarters.

Media reports quoting Chief prosecutor Michele Di Lecce said the probe team was gathering information about the fire, which broke out in the vessel's engine room on Monday, cutting off power supply and leaving it drifting about 200 miles south-west of Mahe, the main island in the Seychelles.

The luxury liner with 1,050 passengers and crew on board is being towed to Mahe and is expected to reach the Seychelles capital Port Victoria early on Thursday. Helicopters operating from the Seychelles will drop supplies to the ship, including fresh food, as it is slowly tugged north at a speed of around six knots by a French fishing trawler which was operating in the area.

Passengers of the ship in distress were forced to sleep on its deck because of the sweltering conditions inside their cabins as the vessel's lighting, air conditioning and refrigerators were knocked out by the fire. "The speed of the ship, despite the hot and humid climate, creates a slight breeze that helps make the situation more comfortable," Costa Cruises said in a statement.

Authorities in Mahe are struggling to find enough hotel accommodation for the tired passengers and crew who had already spent three days at sea since the fire broke out. A Costa Cruises 'care team' has arrived in Mahe to provide assistance to passengers and crew members when the ship finally docks.

The accident came six weeks after another luxury liner owned by the company, the 'Costa Concordia,' capsized in the Mediterranean off Italy's Tuscan island of Giglio after ramming into a submerged rock on the night of January 13 in which 25 peopled died and seven reported missing.

Meanwhile, the captain and second officer of the Greek-flagged ship 'Rena' that ran aground on a reef off New Zealand pleaded guilty in the District Court of Tauranga on Wednesday to ten of the 11 charges laid over the grounding of the container ship.

The were charged following an investigation into the ship's collision with the Astrolabe Reef off Tauranga on October 5 last, leaking heavy fuel oil into the pristine ocean bay polluting the shores of a New Zealand island.

The two men were charged under the Crimes Act, alleging they willfully attempted to pervert justice by altering ship documents after the grounding. Each charge under the Crimes Act carries a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment.

They are due to be sentenced at Tauranga District Court on May 25, the New Zealand Herald reported.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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