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Stricken Costa Allegra being towed to safety through pirate zone

Conditions on the Costa Allegra are deteriorating. With no electricity, passengers and crew have taken to sleeping on deck.  A woman whose son escaped the Costa Concordia,  and whose daughter is now stuck on the Costa Allegra says all she wants to do is see her daughter. Carl Dinnen Channel Four Europe reports.

Helicopters brought food and flashlights Tuesday to more than 1,000 passengers and crew stuck aboard a crippled cruise ship that was being towed to the Seychelles Islands through waters prowled by pirates.

Those aboard the Costa Allegra, a sister ship of the cruise liner that capsized off Italy last month, faced more stifling days and nights on the Indian Ocean before the vessel arrives at port. 

The stricken liner was expected to reach the main Seychelles island of Mahe on Thursday, the Italian cruise operator Costa Crociere SpA said.

"The speed of the ship, despite the hot and humid climate, creates a slight breeze that helps make the situation more comfortable," a company statement said. 

It said fresh bread would be brought in Wednesday since cooking was impossible, but added there was "no lack of food and other comfort items." 

Two tugboats arrived on Tuesday to assist a French fishing vessel towing the Costa Allegra, which was being escorted by the Seychelles coast guard ship Andromache and an air force plane.

The Costa Allegra lost power Monday after a fire in its generator room only six weeks after one of its sister ships, the Costa Concordia, hit a reef and capsized off Italy. No one was injured in the fire Monday, but the blaze set the cruise-liner adrift at sea in a region where Somali pirates prey on ships.

Cruise officials initially said the stranded travelers would be taken by Wednesday to Desroches, a small, exclusive coral-lined island in the Seychelles. But they changed the destination to the larger island of Mahe, citing safety and logistical reasons.

Photos released by the Seychelles on Tuesday showed hundreds of people milling outside on the decks of the Costa Allegra. Taken by an Indian navy plane, the photos showed calm seas and an upright ship. 

The Costa Allegra has 636 passengers and 413 crew members on board. The fire knocked out power to the ship's engines as well as to its lights and air conditioning.

The incident came six weeks after the Costa Concordia capsized, killing 25 people and leaving seven missing and presumed dead. Both ships are operated by Costa Crociere SpA, which is owned by the Florida-based Carnival Corp.

However, company officials rushed to play down concerns.

The Costa Allegra is adrift "and being pushed by the current. It is stable and upright," Giorgio Moretti, the director of nautical operations for Costa Crociere SpA, told reporters in a conference call late Monday from company headquarters in Genoa, Italy.

"It's a big ship and to tow it, to move it across the waters, is a heavy task," said Seychelles presidential spokeswoman Srdjana Janosevic. She said that everything is calm on board the cruise ship and that no one is hurt.

Italian Coast Guard officials said emergency generators were keeping the ship's control room illuminated and communications equipment such as radios running. Officials said the cruise liner was holding steady, despite 5-foot waves in the area and passengers were being kept in the ship's big communal rooms, not in their cabins.

Moretti, a longtime Costa captain, said he expected the 636 passengers aboard would spend the night on outside decks. Among them were 212 Italian, 31 British and eight U.S. passengers, he said. Four of the passengers were children ages 3 or younger.

An Italian cruise ship is being towed Tuesday after being left powerless and adrift with more than 1,000 passengers and crew on board in the pirate-infested waters of the Indian Ocean. The ship NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

The Allegra, whose Italian name means "merry," or "happy," had left northern Madagascar, off Africa's southeast coast, on Saturday and was cruising toward Port Victoria when the fire erupted. Costa said the Allegra had been due in Port Victoria on Tuesday.

The general region where the cruise ship was adrift — off the coast of Tanzania — has seen a rash of attacks by Somali pirates. In 2009, an Italian cruise ship with 1,500 people aboard fended off a pirate attack in the Indian Ocean far off the coast of Somalia.

Moretti said an armed nine-member Italian military team on anti-pirate duty was aboard the Allegra, but he insisted the maritime region where the ship was now "isn't a high risk area for pirates."

"If pirates attack, the armed guards on board will respond. But as far as I am aware, no pirates have been sighted in the area," said Janosevic.

Moretti said 15 Costa engineers, technicians and other officials were flying to Mahe in hope of reaching the Allegra by air to repair its generators. 

Handout / Reuters

The Costa Concordia, carrying more than 4,200 passengers, ran aground Jan. 13 off the coast of Italy. At least 17 people died in the accident, and rescuers continue to search for others missing.

NBC News, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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