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Drifting cruise ship escorted to Borneo

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A stricken luxury cruise ship with over a thousand people on board arrived at a Malaysian port in Borneo island after spending more than a day in waters prowled by pirates.

Escorted by two Malaysian patrol vessels, Reuters reports that the brightly lit Azamara Quest made its way into Sandakan port in Malaysia's Sabah state on Sunday evening with passengers seen standing on the decks.

The vessel suffered an engine room fire on Friday which disabled its engines and left five crew members injured, one seriously, while sailing off the coast of Borneo.

The waters off the coast of southern Philippines and northern Sabah are key hunting grounds for pirates and the Abu Sayyaf, a deadly Islamic militant group.

The Philippine coast guard and navy vessels escorting the ship a slow pace.

The Azamara Quest's captain had opted not to airlift the five crew members who suffered smoke inhalation in the fire and were being treated by doctors aboard, the spokesman added.

Azamara Club Cruises, a unit of the world's No.2 cruise operator Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, said it was cancelling the rest of the 17-night Southeast Asian voyage that began in Hong Kong last week.

The company will refund the passengers who were mainly Americans, Australians and West Europeans. Chief executive Larry Pimentel will meet the passengers and crew on Monday.

Passengers 'calm and upbeat'

The ship was carrying 590 passengers, mostly holidaymakers from Europe, the US and Australia, as well as 411 crew.

In a statement on its website on Saturday, Azamara Club Cruises said engineers had been able to restore propulsion to the ship. Air conditioning had not been restored, but passengers were "calm and upbeat", it added.

The company said the rest of the ship's voyage would be cancelled and that Larry Pimentel, the company's chief executive and president, was flying to Malaysia to meet passengers and crew

The Maltese transport authority said in a statement it had launched an investigation into the incident, to be conducted by Transport Malta's Marine Safety Investigation Unit. The vessel carried a Maltese flag.

The engine room blaze, which started on Friday, was the latest in a string of accidents to have hit the luxury cruise industry in the past two months.

In January, the Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia ran aground off Tuscany, killing 32 people after it keeled over.

A month later a fire struck the vessel's Costa Allegra sister ship in the Indian Ocean. The vessel, which was carrying more than 1,000 people, had to be towed to shore by a French fishing boat.


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