Cruise Ship Carrying More Than 500 People Evacuated After Catching Fire Near Puerto Rico | NBC Connecticut
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Cruise Ship Carrying More Than 500 People Evacuated After Catching Fire Near Puerto Rico

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    More than 500 passengers and crew were evacuated on Wednesday from a burning ship about a mile off Puerto Rico's north coast, and many required medical care, though there were no reported fatalities.

    The fire continued to burn aboard the Caribbean Fantasy, a combination cruise and ferry ship, as the U.S. Coast Guard brought passengers into the San Juan harbor while helicopters whirred overheard. Other agencies and even private vessels joined in the effort before firefighters were ordered to abandon the ship.

    "The boat's systems have collapsed. It's not safe anymore to work inside the boat," said Angel Crespo, director of Puerto Rico's Emergency Management Agency.

    The Coast Guard said all passengers and crew were evacuated. Federal authorities were interviewing the captain, Crespo added.

    Watch: Senators Pay Tribute to Joe Biden With Speeches

    [NATL] Watch: Senators Pay Tribute to Joe Biden With Humor, Remembrances
    Vice President Joe Biden was honored with an emotional bi-partisan tribute on the Senate chamber floor on Dec. 7. 2016. Senators on both sides of the aisle were on the same page as they stepped up to express their admiration and gratitude to the outgoing vice president. An emotional Biden sat in the presiding chair during the moving tribute, which latest for more than two hours as lawmakers celebrated their colleague. (Published Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016)

    The fire apparently had been burning for some time before the alarm was sounded.

    Gyno Funes told The Associated Press he was one of two mechanics in the control room when a hose carrying fuel burst open and caught on fire.

    "We were trying to extinguish it for two hours, but couldn't," said the other mechanic, Marlon Doblado, after the two reached shore.

    Dominican passenger Maria Prensa said she was collecting her luggage when she smelled smoke. "I asked and they told me it was nothing, that it was under control," she said.

    Officials with American Cruise Ferries, which operates the ship, did not return messages for comment about the fire.

    Crespo said 105 people were treated at the scene, mostly for heat stroke, shock and dehydration, and another 24 remained hospitalized. Among these were three women who dislocated their ankles and a man who broke his leg while going down the emergency slide, he said.

    On the docks, several dozen people were carried in on stretchers, one of which held a man hooked to an IV line who was cradling a bawling newborn baby clad only in a diaper.

    The injured were followed by a small group of children who held hands as they disembarked the Coast Guard boats.

    'Late Night': Moore Wants Trump to Have More Briefings

    [NATL] 'Late Night': Michael Moore Wants Trump to Attend More Briefings
    Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore talks to host Seth Meyers about how important it is for President-elect Donald Trump to keep America safe. (Published Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016)

    The mostly Dominican passengers included dozens of school-age athletes headed to competitions in Puerto Rico, including a 22-member cycling team, a girls' volleyball team and a boys' baseball team.

    Passengers found to be in good health were loaded onto city buses to be taken to the ship's original destination, where they went through customs.

    They included Fiordalise Pitchard, who traveled to Puerto Rico on vacation.

    "I feel nervous," she said, her hands trembling. "I was in the restaurant when I saw the smoke. I'm giving all the glory to the Lord today."

    Survivors, Veterans Observe 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

    [NATL] Survivors, Veterans Observe 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor
    Veterans and survivors gather in Oahu, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 2016 to observe the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor surprise attack 75 years ago. (Published Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016)

    Anguished relatives of passengers, including Hilda Pereira, pushed their way onto the scene. Her daughter, whom she has not seen for 14 years, was aboard the boat.

    Pereira said she was at the beauty salon when her sister called to notify her.

    "She said, 'You need to be strong,'" Pereira said. "The ferry has caught on fire."

    The fire erupted in the engine room and was spreading to the rest of the ship, Miami-based Coast Guard spokeswoman Marilyn Fajardo said by phone.

    Time Picks Trump for 2016 Person of the Year

    [NATL] Time Picks Trump for 2016 Person of the Year
    Time Magazine announced President-elect Donald Trump as its 2016 Person of the Year on Dec. 7, 2016, labeling the real estate mogul "President of the Divided States of America" on its cover. (Published Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016)

    The ship runs several times weekly between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.