Ferry Blaze 'Just like the Titanic' 'IT WAS SO TERRIFYING...VERY DARK AND VERY QUIET'.(News)

Article excerpt

Byline: TAMZIN LEWIS

SHAKEN passengers last night relived the horror of fire breaking out on their ferry during a North Sea crossing.

The dramatic 24-hour journey ended safely for nearly 900 people after two blazes left the The Princess of Scandinavia floundering 150 miles south-east of Aberdeen.

British passengers on board the vessel, which was sailing from Newcastle to Scandinavia, spoke of their relief as the 22,528 tonne ship limped into port at Kristiansand, Norway, yesterday eight hours behind schedule.

Black scorch marks were visible on the side of the funnel and a smell of burning paint lingered in the air.

Manuel Mallillin, 79, said: "It was like the Titanic - very dark and very quiet. I'm still trembling. I was very scared, but of course I'm relieved now."

Eight helicopters, an RAF Nimrod surveillance plane and 29 other ships responded to the vessel's mayday call when fire broke out in the engine room.

The ship lost all power and had started to drift when the fire was at its height. The 758 passengers and 126 crew were mustered to lifeboat positions. They included 246 Britons, 428 Swedes, 71 Norwegians and 13 Danes.

Passengers were quick to praise the crews bravery and said there was little sign of panic during the drama, which lasted more than three hours.

The rescue operation was scaled down after the fire, which had spread to the funnel, was contained. Michael Anderton, 61, from Bridge of Allan, near Stirling, said: "At first I thought it was a fire practice. Then I saw the lifeboats being lowered and I began to think it was more serious."

His wife Liz, 59, said: "It was a funny quiet feeling. We could see the fleet around us and that was reassuring, just knowing they were there."

Ian Donkin, 41, from Newcastle, said: ""We were in the cinema when the film cut short and everyone was told to go up on deck. …