National

Fire damages Santa Maria replica

Kyodo

A replica of the main caravel in Christopher Columbus’ historic first voyage was half gutted by fire Saturday morning where it sits in a Kobe park, police and fire officials said.

The blaze broke out on the 32-meter-long replica of the Santa Maria, one of the three ships used by Columbus on his first trip to what became the West Indies, at around 12:25 p.m., the officials said. No one was injured in the blaze, whose cause has not been reported.

The replica was constructed in Spain in 1991 and sailed from Barcelona to Kobe, where it has been serving as an outdoor display at the Kobe Maritime Museum in Meriken Park and had been open to the public.

Since March, the boat had been undergoing renovation work due to heavy damage.

Some 100 park visitors were in the vicinity of the ship when the fire broke out. Although the fire was extinguished about an hour later, roughly half of the vessel was destroyed, the officials said.

Yasuo Chiki, 66, of Kobe said he reported the fire to authorities after he saw black smoke curling up toward one of the masts.

A worker in the renovation said he left for lunch at around noon and returned about 30 minutes later only to see the ship in flames.

The original Santa Maria ran aground near what is now Haiti during the voyage and was dissembled for timbers to build the first Spanish settlement there.