Cruise ship sinks off Greek coast, two missing

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Thursday, April 5, 2007

An evacuation operation was carried out today as a cruise ship ran aground off the coast of Santorini, a Greek island, leaving up to 1,167 passengers and 391 crew to abandon the ship.

The Sea Diamond took on water and listed twelve degrees after running aground, but had been stabilized. Fifteen hours after the grounding, the ship sank.

The island's location

Cruise operator Louis Cruise Lines had announced earlier that all passengers and crew were accounted for. Officials are now reporting that two passengers are missing. A 45-year-old man, Jean-Christophe Allain, and his 16-year-old daughter, Maud, were reported missing by family members also on the cruise, according to a merchant marine ministry official.

BBC journalist Malcolm Brabant reported that the missing passengers had been in a lower-deck cabin when the ship ran aground. Allain's wife and son escaped safely to the upper decks.

Most of the passengers on board the Sea Diamond ship are either American or German. Local news reported that the ship is taking on water after striking a reef in the volcanic island's lagoon, similar to a lake, and issued a distress signal, launching an operation that led more than a dozen ships and five Greek Navy helicopters to evacuate all the people on board, with many boarding a small ferry.

The former Birka Princess in 2005, now called M/S Sea Diamond

The ship was about one nautical mile - 1.8km - from the island's coast when it ran aground. The ship's operators, Louis Cruise Lines, earlier said that a "controlled evacuation" was underway, but that "there is no danger to passengers". The ship had left the Athenian port of Piraeus on Monday for a five-day tour of the islands. The sea was calm when the incident occurred.

"Some passengers have already reached the island and no-one has been hurt," an official at the Santorini coastguard has said, whilst Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis said to reporters, "Thankfully, everything has gone well so far. Emergency services responded very quickly and very well."

Sources

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