2 cruise passengers missing off Australia
09 May 2013, 12:25
Sydney — Authorities were conducting an air and marine search on Thursday off Australia's east coast for two cruise passengers who were discovered missing after their ship docked in Sydney Harbour at the end of a 10-day journey.
The 30-year-old man and 27-year-old woman were discovered missing after the Carnival Spirit docked at Sydney's Circular Quay on Thursday morning, said New South Wales state Police Superintendent Mark Hutchings.
"We believe they have gone overboard," he told reporters, adding that there was "a chance that they may be" alive.
"This is a tragic event at the moment, but we're holding out hope we might be able to find these people alive," Hutchings said.
The missing passengers were a couple from New South Wales who were believed to have fallen from the ship's mid deck on Wednesday night, Hutchings said. He did not reveal the circumstances of their fall.
The passengers were discovered unaccounted for during the debarkation process, said Peter Taylor, spokesperson for the ship's operator, Carnival Cruise Lines.
"The guests in question were travelling with family and friends, and initial reports indicate that the couple was last seen onboard the vessel last night," Taylor said in a statement on Thursday.
"The ship immediately initiated standard missing person procedures, including a full search of the vessel, as per protocol," he said.
Jo Meehan, spokesperson for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is co-ordinating the search, said an airplane and helicopter plus police boats were searching a 1 000km² area of sea north of Sydney.
Carnival Cruise Lines is a subsidiary of Miami-based Carnival Corporation, the world's largest cruise operator.
Carnival Corporation has been plagued by a series of high-profile problems in recent years. Last year, the Costa Concordia ran aground off the coast of Italy, killing 32 people. Also last year, the Costa Allegra caught fire and lost power in the Indian Ocean, leaving passengers without working toilets, running water or air conditioning for three days. Costa is a division of Carnival Corporation.
In February, passengers aboard the Carnival Triumph spent five days without power in the Gulf of Mexico after an engine-room fire disabled the vessel. Those on board complained of squalid conditions, including overflowing toilets and food shortages.