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JIS News

Vice President of Caribbean Operations with the Princess Cruise Line, Steve Nielsen, has commended the government and tourist officials, for the “quick and passionate” response in the wake of a fire, which broke out on its Star Princess cruise ship early yesterday morning (March 23).
The ship was some 50 miles off the coast of Montego Bay when fire of unknown origin started on a balcony and quickly spread to adjacent cabins. The vessel, with 2,610 passengers and 1,230 crew on board, was on its way from Grand Cayman to Montego Bay as part of a weeklong cruise, which included stops in Fort Lauderdale Florida, and Cozumel, Mexico.
The blaze was extinguished and the ship managed to dock in the Montego Bay harbour at about 9:45 a.m. In the aftermath of the fire, an elderly gentleman was pronounced dead, reportedly from a heart attack, and 11 others were injured, with three persons admitted to the Cornwall Regional Hospital. A total of 150 cabins were damaged.
Mr. Neilson, speaking at a press conference held in the Manteca Lounge at the Sangster International Airport at about 5:00 p.m. yesterday, expressed gratitude to Prime Minister P. J. Patterson, whom, he said, had called the family of the deceased to offer condolence. “I thought that was a remarkable gesture of compassion and sympathy and I think that only underscores the genuine attitude of the Jamaican people”, he stated.
He noted that those persons whose cabins were affected by the fire were disembarked and “through the good offices of the Tourism Ministry, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), and quite frankly everyone in Montego Bay, accommodation has been arranged for them”.
Mr. Neilson explained that arrangements were being made to fly the remaining passengers home between today and Saturday. Meanwhile, he said that a team from the Princess Cruise Line has arrived in Jamaica to investigate the cause of the fire and the team would be assisted by experts from Bermuda, the British government and the United States coast guard.
State Minister for Industry and Tourism, Dr. Wykeham McNeil, told the press that he had notified the Prime Minister and Prime Minister-designate as soon as he became aware of the incident, and proceeded to activate the island’s crisis management programme.
“At the national level, we galvanized the support of the appropriate government agencies to provide whatever assistance that was needed at the Montego Bay port,” he said.
In addition to the Ministry of Industry and Tourism, the response team comprised the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), the Ministry of National Security, the Port Authority of Jamaica, the Jamaica Fire Brigade, the Jamaica Defence Force, the Ministry of Health, the JTB and the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo).
He pointed out that medical personnel were on hand as well as ambulances to take the injured to hospital. The Tourism State Minister commended the quick and effective response of the various national agencies that were alert and ready to lend assistance.
He said that the government through his Ministry, would remain in close communication with the team from the Princess Cruise Line, and would continue to offer whatever support was necessary.