Three planes are on standby on the main Seychelles island of Mahe to fly home passengers of the crippled Costa Allegra cruise ship, which is due to reach land on Thursday, the Associated Press reported.
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The Costa Allegra is carrying more than 1,000 people and is being towed by a fishing boat. It will arrive on Mahe, after being diverted from the smaller island of Desroches, three days after a fire on board cut power to its engines and left it adrift in the Indian Ocean.
Gilbert Faure, the chief executive of the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority, said today that the waiting planes each had a seating capacity of at least 580, and would transport the passengers to Rome, the AP reported.
Faure said the first plane would likely leave from Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles, on Thursday afternoon.
Accommodation on Mahe is scarce, the BBC reported, adding that with many hotels booked out, some residents were being asked to make their homes available to stranded Costa passengers.
However it is understood that the majority of the Allegra's passengers would not be staying overnight on Mahe.
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Italian prosecutors in Genoa, where Costa Cruises is headquartered, have opened an investigation into the fire, the London Telegraph reported.
"Right now we know only that there was a fire. We are waiting for further information, which will enable us to decide which line of investigation to follow," chief prosecutor Michele Di Lecce said.
The Costa Allegra is a sister ship to the Costa Concordia liner that ran aground a reef in the Mediterranean in January, killing at least 25 people.