• Kyodo

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Nagasaki Prefectural Police turned over to prosecutors Thursday their negligence case against seven people in connection with a fire that severely damaged a nearly completed ocean liner in October.

The fire broke out aboard the 113,000-ton Diamond Princess as the liner was undergoing interior work at a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. shipyard in Nagasaki. The cause of the blaze was attributed to onboard welding work.

The seven, suspected of professional negligence resulting in the fire, include two welders and MHI officials responsible for the work.

Police said they turned their criminal case over to prosecutors because of the huge amount of damage to the vessel — said to amount to some 30 billion yen — as well as the large social impact the fire had.

Workers were welding pipes to the ceiling on the fourth deck of the ship at around 5:20 p.m. Oct. 1 when the 5-mm-thick steel plate overheated and set fire to wooden furniture in a cabin on the deck above, according to police. The blaze then proceeded to gut some 40 percent of the 14-deck liner, one of the largest in the world.c

MHI work procedures require supervisors to be posted at locations where fire is being used near flammable objects. But were was no one in cabin 320, where the fire broke out.

Police said the seven failed to fulfill their “obligation to predict and prevent a fire.”

After the fire, MHI and the ship’s owner, British shipping firm P & O Princess Cruises PLC, agreed to rename the vessel Sapphire Princess and push back its delivery date to May 2004 from this June.

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