Around 550 passengers on board the DFDS cruise-ferry that sailed from Oslo Tuesday evening were ordered up to the top decks early Wednesday morning, after fire broke out on one of the vehicle decks lower on the vessel.
The DFDS Pearl of Scandinavia was about three hours from berthing in Copenhagen when the fire broke out, and officials both on board and in Oslo told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that emergency helicopters from Sweden arrived at the vessel’s location quickly.
NRK reported that the start of the fire was “explosive” in nature and that at least two cars and a truck were damaged.
Crew on board and Swedish firefighters gained control over the blaze, which reportedly started around 6am. Some passengers told NRK that they could smell and see smoke in the corridors and that it became relatively thick on Deck 5.
They were all evacuated from their cabins up to the top decks, after an initial call to the lifeboats reportedly was deemed unecessary. Swedish news bureau TT reported that the vessel was located about 2.5 nautical miles from Kullens lighthouse not far from the Swedish mainland at Höganäs when the fire broke out.
There were no injuries among the passengers and one told NRK that the situation was calm. By 8am the vessel’s crew was able to start serving an improvised breakfast in the restaurant areas on Deck 8 where passengers were assembled.
A DFDS spokeswoman told NRK the vessel was proceeding on its own power to Copenhagen, where passengers could be evacuated to land. DFDS set up a special telephone line to update those with relatives on board the vessel: (+47) 21 62 13 50.
Cruise-ferry accidents are an especially sensitive topic following the Scandinavian Star tragedy 20 years ago. Regulations and response times have been considerably sharpened since then, DFDS said emergency drills are conducted every week and NRK reported that a full fire alarm drill involving Norwegian emergency crews was held on board a competing cruise ferry from Stena LInes just this week. It’s high-season for the cruise ferries, popular for their special pre-Christmas parties and shows.