WASHINGTON, February 14 (RIA Novosti) A hulking, disabled cruise ship hobbled toward a US port Thursday in the final hours of an extraordinary and nauseating odyssey played out with gripping live television video that captured the pathetic drama on the high seas.
With the vessel, the Carnival Cruise Lines Triumph, still wallowing in the Gulf of Mexico under tugboat tow 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the port of Mobile, Alabama, US cable news broadcaster CNN aired what it labeled exclusive live footage of the ship taken from a helicopter hovering low over the slow-moving scene.
Passengers were seen standing on stateroom balconies on various levels of the 14-story ship with large white banners bearing inscriptions like “S.O.S.” and “We Need Food” draped over the railings, while rescue helicopters hovered over the decks and lowered containers down to the stricken vessel.
Three large tugboats pushed, pulled and nudged the Triumph along while half a dozen smaller utility and rescue boats buzzed around the ship as it slowly made its way toward the US shoreline with limited electric power and water.
The ship was hit Sunday by a fire in the engine room which knocked out engine power, electricity, plumbing and other utilities on the vessel in the midst of what was supposed to be a relaxing Caribbean cruise.
It was carrying 3,143 passengers and over 1,000 crewmembers and conditions aboard the ship worsened quickly early in the week after it lost power and drifted aimlessly in the Gulf waiting to be seized by tugboats and towed to a port.
In sporadic communications over the past four days, passengers have described sickening conditions on the ship where non-functioning toilets forced them to use showers and plastic bags to relieve themselves and where the stench drove people to sleeping in hallways and on deck outdoors.
US media have reported descriptions of raw sewage “sloshing about” and running down bulkheads in passenger areas of the ship while food and beverage supplies have been severely disrupted.
“When you get up in the morning, the first thing you are thinking about is ‘how many hours before I can go back to sleep’,” Larry Poret, a passenger aboard the vessel, told CNN via cell phone during its live broadcast. The ship was apparently close enough to land for some passengers to pick up cell phone signals.
The episode has already proved a PR disaster for Carnival, which is described on the website Ship Cruise as the world’s largest cruise company, and corporate managers have taken to the airwaves to issue profuse apologies for the mess.
“We are obviously very, very sorry about what is taking place,” Carnival President Gerry Cahill said Tuesday.
The company has offered passengers a refund of their money for this cruise, credit toward purchase of a future cruise and $500 per passenger in compensation. It has also disputed accounts from passengers about the degree of filth on the ship.
Some commentators quoted in US media have speculated that many passengers are likely to balk at the company’s offer of compensation.
US broadcast media were expected to be saturated with coverage of the story late Thursday when the ship puts into port and passengers disembark and begin to tell their stories in detail.
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News that Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin would resign in order to run for the mayoral election in September came as quite a shock. Sobyanin’s political potential is fairly dubious, not to mention his approval ratings. He has not finished many of the projects he initiated and the electoral effect from these projects is expected to come a bit later than September 2013. Sobyanin’s opponents were not entirely unprepared for this blitzkrieg.