Fire on ferry off Puerto Rico, nearly 500 rescued

AFP , Wednesday 17 Aug 2016

Puerto Rico
Burning ferry off the US territory of Puerto Rico. August 17, 2016 (Photo:Reuters)

Nearly 500 passengers were rescued from a burning ferry off the US territory of Puerto Rico Wednesday, with no major injuries reported, authorities said.

The captain and crew of the Caribbean Fantasy, a passenger and cargo ferry belonging to America Cruise Ferries, remained on board the vessel despite an active engine room fire, Puerto Rico's fire chief Angel Crespo said.

Crespo said no fatalities had been reported and the nearly 500 passengers aboard the ship were taken to safety in San Juan.

"The fire reportedly began in the engine room of the ship and is spreading to other compartments on board," the US Coast Guard said in a statement.

The Coast Guard said multiple and air and surface craft were dispatched to rescue passengers, including a coast guard cutter.

Fire, pilot and tug boats also responded from the port, it said.

"At this stage the priority is attending to the people," Crespo said, adding that there were only preliminary reports about their medical condition.

"There is probably dehydration and nervous shock, but we can confirm that nearly 500 people are all on the way to port," he said.

Crespo, who also heads Puerto Rico's disaster management agency, said the fire has been contained in the engine room but was not yet out.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

The Panamanian-flagged vessel was two nautical miles north of San Juan when the fire was reported to the Coast Guard, at about 7:42 am (1142 GMT).

It was carrying 512 people, including crew, bound for the Dominican Republic, the Coast Guard said.

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