Chaos and death on 'cruise to nowhere'

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The Independent Online
SINGAPORE (Agencies) - The cruise ship Royal Pacific sank yesterday after a night-time collision with a fishing boat, killing at least four people, injuring 70 and leaving up to 26 missing. Rescue ships picked up hundreds of survivors, and the search for the missing is continuing.

The Royal Pacific had left Singapore on Friday night for a two- day 'Cruise To Nowhere' along the Malaysian coast with more than 500 people on board, including 12 Britons.

A crew member said the collision with a Taiwanese boat, which tore a 6ft hole in the Royal Pacific, occurred in the Straits of Malacca off southern Malaysia while most aboard were asleep.

'Everybody panicked and jumped out into the dark sea,' Mohammed Shahruddin said. Several survivors said the crew gave them no warning or help after the vessel was holed at 3am.

'We did everything by ourselves,' one passenger said. 'No crew was there to help us. We threw our daughters in the water first, then jumped in. It took us half an hour to reach the rubber dinghy and another hour for the lifeboat to come.

'The crew was so multi-racial that they did not know what each other was speaking. We were not even shown how to put on a lifejacket.'

The Royal Pacific, built in 1965 and formerly named Empress and Empress of Australia, is managed by Tony Travel and Agency Ltd of Piraeus. The Greek Merchant Marine Ministry said the vessel was owned by Internav Ltd in London. But a spokesman for the company said in London it merely helped manage the vessel.