A fire forced more than 500 people to be evacuated from a cruise ship about a mile off Puerto Rico's northern coast on Wednesday. The U.S. Coast Guard brought passengers to the shore as the fire continued to burn aboard the Caribbean Fantasy, a combination cruise and ferry ship. Other agencies also joined the rescue effort until fire forced them to abandon the ship.
All passengers and crew were removed from the boat, and although there were no fatalities, many required medical care. Federal authorities were interviewing the captain after the incident, according to Angel Crespo, director of Puerto Rico's Emergency Management Agency.
The boat's systems have collapsed. It's not safe anymore to work inside the boat, said Crespo.
The Coast Guard said all passengers and crew were evacuated. Federal authorities were interviewing the captain, Crespo added.
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.
Crespo said 105 people were treated at the scene, mostly for heat stroke, shock and dehydration, and another 24 remained hospitalized.
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.
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. The ship runs several times weekly between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.