Firefighters extinguish burning ship

Kyodo

A fire aboard the unfinished 113,000-ton luxury liner Diamond Princess was extinguished Wednesday afternoon, but not before the 19-hour blaze left about 70 percent of the ship damaged.

Authorities said the fire in the British-owned ship’s stern was put out first, while the forward section continued to burn until shortly before noon Wednesday.

The forward section of the 14-deck ship includes the bridge.

The Diamond Princess, owned by P&O Princess Cruises PLC, was having its interior fitted out at the Nagasaki shipyard of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. when the fire broke out at around 5:50 p.m. Tuesday.

Mitsubishi officials said all of the 1,000 or so workers inside the ship at the time escaped unhurt. No injuries were reported.

“The extent of the damage is not as yet known, but appears to be significant,” P&O Princess Cruises said in a statement posted Tuesday on the company’s Web site.

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi said Wednesday the fire damaged between 60 percent and 70 percent of the ship, but that this damage will be covered by insurance.

The company added that the ship’s engine room and electrical generator equipment escaped damage.

The Diamond Princess, 290 meters long and 41.5 meters wide, was designed to accommodate 3,100 passengers, making it one of the world’s largest luxury liners.

The Nagasaki fire department dispatched more than 40 fire engines and fireboats to fight the blaze.

With two coast guard patrol vessels on the scene to provide security, the Nagasaki port authority banned all ship traffic within a 300-meter radius of the liner.

According to Mitsubishi officials, the fire appears to have started on the forward part of the No. 5 deck, which is designed to house an art gallery and passenger cabins.

The fire quickly spread to the upper decks, at one point forcing firefighters to evacuate the ship. No sprinkler system had been installed on the vessel.

The Diamond Princess, the largest passenger ship built in Japan, has been docked at the Mitsubishi shipyard for interior fitting out since it was launched in May.

Mitsubishi was scheduled to deliver the ship to P&O Princess Cruises by the end of May.