In the midst of storm warnings in the Balearics a massive rescue operation was launched yesterday morning in Minorca after a fire broke out on the cruise ship Arkona as she was trying to dock in the Port of Mahon. Port Authority sources said that the accident happened at 8am when the cruise liner suddenly lost control as she was just about to dock near the Port Authority offices. Just as the liner started to drift, she was caught by yesterday's strong winds, which is when a salvage tug, a rescue vessel and a local fishing trawler were called in to help the cruise ship complete her manoeuvre. Control of the ship was re-established, but the Liberian-registered ship could not avoid crashing in to the quay and started taking on water through a hole in the bow. Eventually the ship was made safe and the crew and 500 passengers were able to disembark, oblivious to the fire on board. Engineers from the shipping company have since boarded the stricken ship, still moored up in the port, to carry out repairs to the cruise liner's hull and also inspect the damage caused by the fire. According to initial inspections, the fire started in one of the engine rooms. All of Minorca's police forces and the Civil Protection department were involved in the operation and a fleet of ambulances stood by on the dockside in the event of any casualties needing medical treatment. Fortunately none of the crew and passengers were injured, although some of the guests were shaken up by the incident. How long the cruise ship will remain in Minorca remains to be seen, but in the meantime the Port Authority is carrying out a full investigation in to the accident. The Civil protection and Port Authority in Minorca were on a round-the-clock watch yesterday, and will continue to be on full alert over the weekend with severe winds forecast. Shipping across the Balearics is being warned to keep a check on the weather.


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