Cruise ship carrying nearly 1,600 evacuated off Greek island

Thursday, April 5th 2007, 11:50 am
By: News On 6

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ A listing cruise ship carrying nearly 1,600 people _ most of them Americans _ was being evacuated off the Greek island of Santorini on Thursday after striking rocks in a lagoon, authorities said.

No injuries were reported aboard the Sea Diamond, which apparently had hit a reef and was listing near the main port of the island.

The Merchant Marine Ministry said 1,195 passengers and 391 crew members were on board, and most had been evacuated safely.

``Thankfully, everything has gone well so far. Emergency services responded very quickly and very well,'' Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis told state-run NET television.

Separately Thursday, a Filipino sailor was killed on the western Greek island of Corfu in an accident during a safety drill on the German-based cruise ship Astoria. The 47-year-old man was killed and three other crew members were injured on the Bahamas-flagged Astoria when a lifeboat harness snapped and the lifeboat dangled on the side of the ship, authorities said.

The Astoria is operated by the Transocean cruise lines based in Bremen, Germany. The Sea Diamond's passengers were being transferred to a ferry that can hold 500 people.

Witnesses said hundreds of people waited on the deck of the 469-foot Sea Diamond to be evacuated.

``We managed to get the ship away from the rocks and tugged the vessel toward the main harbor,'' said Santorini's regional governor, Chrysanthos Roussis. ``The condition appears to have been stabilized, and the evacuation effort is going well so far.''

Thousands of tourists and residents watched the rescue effort from the volcanic island's cliffs and port.

Louis Cruise Lines spokesman Michalis Martheftis said none of the people on board was in danger.

``The ship struck rocks. ... This is not an emergency situation but people on board are being evacuated as a precaution,'' Martheftis said, adding that most of the passengers were Americans.

More than a dozen ships in the area were involved in the rescue effort.

Six navy rescue helicopters, two military transport plane and four warships also were been sent to the area, along with emergency medical crews.

The Greek-flagged Sea Diamond was built in 1986 and refurbished in 1999.