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Rescue workers ordered to abandon fire-hit Norwegian passenger ship

(Xinhua)

10:51, September 16, 2011

OSLO, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- All rescue workers were ordered to leave the Norwegian passenger ship "MS Nordlys" (the Northern Lights), which has been taking on water after it caught fire early on Thursday morning, local media reported.

Police feared that the passenger ferry, which was carrying 262 people, including 207 passengers, on its northern-bound voyage from Norway's second largest city Bergen, would capsize.

Divers had earlier plugged a hole in the hull. But a new gush of seawater entered the ship later, and it was not immediately possible to locate from where water was coming into the ship.

Norwegian police was first notified about the fire onboard the passenger ferry at 9:20 in the morning (0720 GMT) on Thursday.

At least two people had died during the fire and another 16 crew members were hurt, among whom two were in critical conditions.

Three rescue workers were taken to hospital after they got slightly injured on board of the ship, raising the total number of the injured to 19.

Nobody on board the ship was missing, police said.

The exact cause of the fire was still under investigation.

Residents in downtown Aalesund, a port city over 200 kilometers north of Bergen, were asked to take precautionary measures such as turning off ventilation systems and keeping windows closed as smoke from the ship covered some parts of the city.

Guests and staff from an Aalesund hotel close to the quay, where the ship docked, had to flee from the thick smoke generated by the fire. The hotel would remain closed for at least two days.

The ill-fated ship "MS Nordlys" is operated by the Hurtigruten company to carry tourists for sightseeing along Norway's western coast.

Built in 1994 in Germany, the ship was on a six-day voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes, a city on the most northeastern part of the country.

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