Cruise Ship Listing After Fire Kills 2 Crewmembers

September 16, 2011
(8:15 a.m. EDT) -- Rescue teams fought to keep Hurtigruten's MS Nordlys afloat Friday morning, pumping water from the hull of the dangerously listing ship, according to officials. The Associated Press reported that Police Chief Jon Steven Hasseldal marked the ship's list at an angle of 21.7 degrees -- over what is considered a critical line of 20 degrees -- before a Dutch salvage team was able to place three pumps inside the vessel. In a statement from Hurtigruten, the line said the MS Nordlys has a heel of approximately 10 degrees, but the vessel is stabilized. Divers have confirmed no penetration of the hull, but water leakage was detected. Pumps are running to ensure no further damage.

An engine fire onboard Nordlys off the coast of Norway on Thursday sent nine crewmembers to the hospital with injuries and left two dead, according to cruise line Hurtigruten. In total, 260 people were evacuated from the ship, with all 207 passengers evacuated safely.

According to Norwegian news Web site NRK, the 11,204-ton ship was just outside Alesund in Norway's northwest when fire broke out in the engine room shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday. The cause of the fire is as yet unknown, but dramatic video footage shows black smoke billowing from the smokestack while the emergency alarm sounds and passengers and crew gather on deck, prepared to evacuate.

A spokeswoman for Hurtigruten in London confirmed the details to Cruise Critic. "Following a fire onboard the MS Nordlys, all guests have been safely evacuated to the Rica Parken Hotel in Alesund. There were 207 guests onboard of varying nationalities and 55 crew. Hurtigruten staff are in Alesund and are either rebooking guests onto an alternative sailing or making arrangements for them to travel home." The incident calls to mind Carnival Splendor, which was crippled by an engine-room fire last November off the coast of Mexico. The ship was sidelined for 3.5 months.

Nordlys, which in English means 'Northern Lights,' is one of Hurtigruten's 14 vessels. Eleven of these cruise-ferries ply the coast of Norway on a continuous, year-round basis, transporting passengers, tourists and freight north and southbound between Bergen and Kirkenes. The ship was built in 1994 and carries 691 passengers and 45 cars. It was on a northbound voyage when the fire broke out. A telephone number has been published for relatives wanting information about passengers and crew onboard during the fire: +47 47 83 47 00.

--by Sue Bryant, Contributing Editor