Costa braces for PR storm as passengers adrift for days with no power prepare to tell of ordeal

 

Six hundred passengers from the Costa Allegra were told they will be flown back to Europe later today after spending three sweltering tropical nights aboard the crippled luxury cruise liner.

Costa Cruises, the operator, said it had also managed to find a further 400 beds to accommodate the new arrivals when they arrived in the Seychelles.

The ship has been without power since Monday when a fire in the engine room knocked out electricity and air conditioning, forcing 1,000 passengers and crew to seek refuge from the soaring temperatures on deck. They have been washing in mineral water and cooling themselves in the breeze generated by the slow forward motion of the ship.

Three flights are expected to take off from the island of Mahe in the Indian Ocean archipelago later today, bound for Rome and other destinations.

Investigators will begin work finding the cause of the blaze that left the ship drifting in potentially hostile waters renowned for Somali pirates.

Costa, the Italian owner of the Allegra, which is part of the American cruising giant Carnival, is now faced with restoring its tarnished reputation in the lucrative marketplace, while handling a potentially explosive new PR crisis as passengers, including 31 Britons, begin to recount their ordeal for the first time to a media contingent already assembling in Port Victoria.

Last month, the company's Costa Concordia capsized after hitting rocks off the Italian coast with the loss of 32 lives. The Concordia's captain, Francesco Schettino, is being investigated for manslaughter and abandoning his ship.

Costa insisted that conditions on board the 29,000-tonne Allegra have been "regular". The lights, refrigeration and cooking facilities failed so a helicopter has been dropping comfort supplies, including torches, fresh food such as fruit and slices of cheese, and water. A small generator delivered by a passing naval ship had helped alleviate some communications problems, although it was insufficient to restore full power.

The ship is expected to dock today, although the arrival time has been repeatedly put back. It is being pulled at six knots by a French tuna vessel. Two tugs were unable to join the rescue effort.

The influx of 1,000 weary travellers threatened to overwhelm the tiny island, which is already full of guests preparing to celebrate a festival weekend. Gilbert Faure, the chief executive of the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority, said the first plane is tentatively scheduled to leave later today.

"It could all depend because they have been at sea for three days," he said. "They may want to take a shower, we are not sure. I can assure you that we are doing our best to ensure that they have a nice few hours in the Seychelles."

The passengers include 127 French tourists, 126 Italians, 38 Germans, 13 Canadians and eight Americans.

Accidents will happen, says wreck captain

The 1,000 passengers languishing on board the Costa Allegra are unlikely to be as relaxed about their predicament as the captain of its ill-fated sister ship, the Costa Concordia, appears to be. Captain Francesco Schettino, who is currently under house arrest at his home near Naples, gave his verdict on the Allegra's plight to reporters yesterday, saying: "These accidents happen".

Captain Schettino is suspected of abandoning ship and manslaughter after 25 passengers died when the Concordia struck rocks on the Italian island of Giglio on 13 January.

He faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted.

Jenny Stevens

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?