(12:29 p.m. EDT) -- We're hearing reports today of yet another suspicious fire on Norwegian Epic at the shipyard -- the third in over a month and just days from delivery.
The latest event took place on Sunday afternoon, 6 June, when workers at the STX Europe shipyard in St. Nazaire and their families were visiting the near-completed, 153,000-ton ship. According to local newspaper Ouest France, some 17,000 people were visiting the ship over the course of the day and the fire, which started on Deck 8, meant that hundreds had to be evacuated. Nobody was injured.
French prosecutors -- according to reports in Ouest France and Fairplay Daily News, and on the Web site for trade magazine Cruise Business Review -- believe that the fire on Sunday was "almost certainly deliberate in origin."
Both earlier fires were already being treated as suspicious. The first, on May 3, damaged cabling on Deck 4. A few days later, a second, smaller fire was discovered higher up, in the area of the ship's waterslides.
The report in Ouest France claims that the investigation is being hampered by the fact that there is a large number of crew and contractors onboard, many of whom do not speak French.
No spokesperson for STX Europe was available to comment and NCL has only issued a brief statement about Sunday's fire: "Norwegian Cruise Line was notified by STX Europe that there was a small fire in an air conditioning room of Norwegian Epic on Sunday, June 6, 2010. It was extinguished immediately and there was no damage."
A spokeswoman also told Cruise Critic that the inaugural events for the ship, which is due to be delivered to NCL on June 15 and to arrive in Britain on June 21, were going ahead as planned.
We'll keep you posted as events unfold in this unusual and alarming drama.
Who could be setting these fires and why? Is the ship cursed? Join the discussion!
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor
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