Tragedy has struck the under-construction Diamond Princess. The 113,000-ton, 2,600-passenger ship, owned by P&O Princess and slated to join the U.S. Princess fleet next May, was ablaze for 19 hours until the fire was finally put out this afternoon. Media reports from Japan indicate 70 percent of the ship is destroyed. The approximately 1,000 workers on the ship at the time the fire broke out all were safely evacuated.
The fire broke out on deck 5 of the 14 deck ship. Sprinkler warning devices were of no help since, at this point in the ship's construction, they had not yet been installed. The cause is under investigation. According to a statement issued by P&O Princess yesterday -- while Diamond Princess was still burning -- "It will take some time to assess the extent of the damage and any consequent delay to the scheduled delivery. However, it should be noted that the company has in place contractual arrangements with the yard and insurance policies that it believes, irrespective of the extent of the damage and any consequent delay, will be sufficient to ensure that there will be no significant economic impact on the Group nor any adverse impact on its 2003 earnings."
Diamond Princess was one of two new-builds slated for construction at Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries shipyard. The building process is in the very early phases on sister ship Sapphire Princess, which will be built to the same tonnage and passenger specifications -- and which was not damaged by the fire -- but its delivery is slated to follow a full year after that of Diamond Princess.