More than 850 passengers had to be evacuated after their Mediterranean cruise ship collided with an oil tanker off the coast of Turkey, leaving a huge dent in its hull.
Authorities said a huge disaster was averted after emergency service quickly responded to reports that the Celestyal Crystal and the tanker STI Pimlico had crashed at 1.30am on Saturday morning in the Dardanelles Strait.
Cruise operators said two crew members and a passenger suffered minor injuries in the accident as the vessel, registered to Malta, made its way from Greece to Istanbul.
All of its 853 passengers and 382 staff were taken to safety by a sea bus to Gallipoil, and the rest of their journey was cancelled while structural damage to the front of the ship is being fixed.
Damage: The hull of the Celestyal Crystal was badly damaged after the incident at 1.30am on Saturday
Emergency services moved quickly to douse the tanker in water to prevent a fire or explosion after fuel spilled out of the 182-metre long tanker, which had been travelling from Russia to Malta carrying flammable naptha fuel.
It has not yet been established how the collision took place.
A statement from the cruise line published on travel website www.cruisecritic.co.uk said Celestyal Cruises, which operates the ship, will arrange for passengers to continue their holidays on other boats.
It has also offered full refunds for holidaymakers’ cruise fares as well as second, complimentary seven-night cruises
Spill: Emergency services working quickly to stop a fire or explosion when oil poured out of the tanker
‘With the safety and care of our passengers as our utmost priority, we will ensure the smoothest possible disembarkation for those on board since the current cruise will have to be cancelled’, it said.
‘We apologize for the inconvenience and would like to assure that we will spare no effort in ensuring that our passengers are provided with the best hospitality under the circumstances.’
Mayor of Çanakkale, Ahmet Çınar, told Turkish television channel NTV a huge disaster was prevented just in time and potential danger has been minimized thanks to ‘intensive’ work by emergency crews, the Daily Sabah reported.
Ferry services along the Strait were cancelled for several hours during the clean-up operation.