Costa cruises into troubled waters - again

A fire broke out on board Costa Allegra in the electric generator room. Photo: Reuters

An operation is underway this evening to rescue more than a thousand stricken passengers stranded aboard the sister ship of the Costa Concordia, drifting in heavy seas, without power after an engine fire.

The Costa Allegra is almost three hundred miles off the Seychelles, although officials on the islands don't want to give away her exact location as Somali pirates frequently operate in those waters.

While no-one's been hurt, this is an almost unthinkable PR disaster for Costa Cruises. A second horror-show at sea in as many months.

On Saturday in the Tuscan town of Grossetto, witnesses to the Concordia crash will gather in a theatre to be questioned by a panel of judges. The town's courthouse was deemed far too small for the hearing. The ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, has assumed the role of pantomime villain in Italy. He may be excused from the hearing - for his own safety.

As the details of last month's tragedy are raked over in public, this latest drama could not have come at a worse time.

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