Passengers Evacuate Listing Greek Cruise Ship

April 5, 2007

Nearly 1,600 cruise passengers and crew were safely evacuated earlier today after Louis Cruise Lines' Sea Diamond scraped its side on a reef on approach to the Greek island of Santorini. No injuries were reported, according to an official announcement on the cruise line's Web site.

The ship was carrying 1,195 passengers -- mostly North Americans including U.S. college students, according to the Associated Press -- and 391 crewmembers; the AP reports that the ship was freed of rocks by tugboats. Sea Diamond was taking on water during the incident, and listed 12 degrees, but stabilized when watertight doors were activated.

"The ship tilted so far to the right the first five floors were flooded. We just waited at the top to be rescued," American passenger Cliff Jones told the BBC News. Passengers told the BBC News they were taken from the ship on lifeboats, and that the evacuation proceeded calmly; they were then taken ashore by ferries and other boats.

Perla, another ship in the Cyprus-based cruise line's fleet, is on its way to Santorini to embark stranded passengers, who will be taken to Piraeus, the port for Athens, where their cruise was scheduled to culminate on Saturday, according to the BBC. Louis' technical team is also on its way to evaluate damage to the ship.

The cruise line notes in its statement that Greek authorities responded "promptly and professionally."

We'll keep you posted.

--by Melissa Baldwin, Senior Editor