Hurtigruten fire leaves two dead

Two crew members were found dead on board a Hurtigruten vessel hit by fire in its engine room Thursday morning. Passengers and other crew on board the vessel that’s among those sailing along Norway’s coast were evacuated, many by lifeboat. The number of persons injured was set at 16.

The MS Nordlys is one of the vessels in the Hurtigruten fleet that sails north and south along the coast of Norway. PHOTO: Hurtigruten

The cause of the fire on board the Hurtigruten vessel MS Nordlys remained unclear. Police said two persons were confirmed dead, and all other crew members had been accounted for.

Hurtigruten officials said there were 262 persons on board the Nordlys including 207 passengers and a crew of 55. Around 100 passengers were evacuated in the vessel’s lifeboats before the vessel managed to make its way into the west coast city of Ålesund with assistance from emergency vessels.

Other passengers and crew were taken off the vessel on improvised gangways from the vessel to the pier and later to a local hotel. Two persons injured in the fire also had been taken to land before the ship docked, Hurtigruten spokesman Ragnar Nordrum told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

Three more injuries were later confirmed and by noon the total number of injured was set at 12. By 1pm the number of injured had risen to 16. Police said eight were being treated at Ålesund Sjukehus, the local hospital, and eight at a local emergency clinic. All the injured worked on board the Nordlys.

The fatalities were confirmed after emergency crews were able to search the ship when it docked. The fire was extinguished by mid-afternoon and the vessel was listing to one side after having taken on water during the fire-fighting efforts.

‘Dramatic’
Smoke could be seen billowing from the vessel’s smokestack as it neared Ålesund. The vessel was able to sail to the pier, but the scene was described as dramatic. “The ship was lacking control, but with the help of an emergency vessel it was able to get to the quay,” reported Berit Susanne Kjølås of NRK.

Fire trucks, ambulances and other emergency vehicles were waiting on the pier for the vessel, which managed to tie up around 10am. Two rescue helicopters had also been called before the vessel made it into port.

The situation was described as “serious” after what the head of search and rescue services for southern Norway, Stein Solberg, called a fire of “undetermined” cause broke out in the engine. The fire continued to burn after the ship berthed.

The smoke from the vessel was so thick that it covered most of Ålesund’s downtown area, known for the art-deco architecture of its buildings constructed in the early 1900s after the city itself had been hit by a devastating fire. Police were asking residents to turn off their ventilation systems and keep windows closed, and later ordered an evacuation of portions of the city center.

Was on its way north to Kirkenes
Hurtigruten’s Nordlys was heading northbound on its normal route from Bergen to Kirkenes. The fleet of Hurtigruten vessels leave every day from either Bergen or Kirkenes, calling at scores of ports big and small during the course of the six-day journey.

The vessel is part of the relatively new fleet of passenger ferries that resemble small cruise ships. It was built in 1994 at the Stralsund shipyard in Germany and can carry 691 passengers with overnight accommodation for 475.

Hurtigruten officials set up an emergency phone line for the families of those on board the Nordlys who have been evacuated. It is: (+47) 478 36 700.

For photos from the scene, see NRK’s website (external link, in Norwegian).

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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