Planes get ready for stricken liner passengers


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The Independent Online

Planes are being lined up in the Seychelles to fly home passengers from the stricken Costa Allegra cruise ship as soon as possible.

The ship is being towed to the main island in the Indian Ocean archipelago, where it is expected early today.

Accommodation is being arranged, but with hotels already busy, most are expected to fly straight to Italy.

The ship was left adrift with more than 1,000 people – including 31 Britons – on board after a fire in the generator room on Monday.

Little is known about the conditions on board, but most of the passengers and crew are staying on deck, taking refuge from the soaring temperatures.

There they have been washing in mineral water and cooling themselves in the breeze generated by the slow forward motion of the ship.

As the Allegra has no air-conditioning or cooking facilities, a helicopter is continuing to fly in fresh food.

Three flights are expected to take off soon after the ship is towed into Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles, on the island of Mahe, later today.

The ship's Italian owners, Costa Cruises, will then be faced with restoring their tarnished reputation as investigators begin work finding the cause of the blaze which left the ship drifting in potentially hostile waters renowned for Somali pirates.

Last month, the company's Costa Concordia capsized after hitting rocks off the Italian coast with the loss of 32 lives. Costa insisted that conditions on board the 29,000-tonne Allegra have been "regular".

The influx of 1,000 weary travellers threatened to overwhelm the tiny island of Mahe, which is preparing to celebrate a festival weekend.

As well as the Britons there are passengers from 25 different nations. These include 127 French, 126 Italians, 38 Germans, 13 Canadians and eight Americans. Four children are also on board.

Some may choose to stay in the Seychelles for up to two weeks – the length of the remaining scheduled cruise – paid for by Costa.