Luxury liner on fire off Tawi-Tawi island, authorities sayBy Frances Mangosing, Julie S. Alipala
Inquirer Mindanao, INQUIRER.net
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—A Filipino-manned luxury ship carrying about 600 American and European passengers caught fire off Mapun Island in Tawi-Tawi Saturday, a report from the Philippine Navy said.
Colonel Jose Cenabre, deputy naval commander for Western Mindanao, said the ship was sailing 45 miles northeast of Mapun Island when fire of still unknown origin broke out.
Cenabre said the Philippine Air Force in Western Mindanao has dispatched a plane to the area and a fishing vessel, which was near the ship’s location was also asked to assist in the evacuation of the passengers and the ship’s 121 crew, mostly Filipinos.
“Rescue is underway,” he said.
In a separate report, the Philippine Coast Guard said a crew member was injured.
He was identified as Juan Carlos Rivera Escobar.
However, Vice Admiral Edmund Tan of the PCG said they have yet to confirm if Escobar is Filipino.
About 120 of the ship crew were Filipinos.
In a travel alert by the Azamara Club Cruises posted in its website (March 30 12noon ET), the fire started on the engine room March 30 8:19p.m. ship time. However, no injuries of guests were reported.
The mood onboard was “calm.”
Also, “in an abundance of caution, the Captain deemed it necessary to muster all guests at their assembly stations. The ship is currently running on emergency power until full power can be restored to the engine room,” the statement said.
As of March 30 6 p.m. EST, Azamara Quest is still located 200 miles off the coast of Balikpapan (Borneo), Indonesia, in calm seas, it added.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Omar Tonsay said the Philippine Navy sent its assets, including Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas (BRP) Emilio Liwanag, Leogivildo Gantioque, Juan Magluyan, and one multi-purpose assault craft for assistance operations.
The Azamara Quest is currently on a 17-night sailing that departed Hong Kong, China, on Monday, March 26, with port calls to Manila, Philippines; Balikpapan (Borneo), Palapo (Sulawesi), Benoa Bali, Semarang and Komodo, Indonesia and will end in Singapore on Thursday.