Dancer siblings caught up in both Costa cruise disasters

A British mother spoke yesterday of her shock at hearing that a cruise ship her daughter worked on was adrift in the Indian Ocean, just weeks after her son survived the sinking of another vessel.

Jayne Thomas said her daughter Rebecca was working as a dancer on the Italian cruise ship Costa Allegra when a fire broke out in the engine room on Monday, leaving its 1000 passengers stranded onboard.

In an astonishing twist, she revealed that her son James, who is also a dancer, had survived the sinking last month of the much larger Costa Concordia off an Italian island, an accident which claimed 32 lives.

"I didn't think anything like this could happen again to my daughter. I thought it was a one-off and we wouldn't be going through this experience again," Thomas told BBC television.

"I really didn't think disaster could strike twice.

"Of all the ships that are sailing in the ocean, the two that have come into difficulty in the last few weeks have been the two that my children were on."

She said she had not heard from Rebecca since the fire broke out but was reassured by news that the Costa Allegra was being towed to a tiny Seychelles island, although it would not reach land for another 24 hours.

Thomas added: "James doesn't want to return, definitely, at the moment. I'm not sure about Rebecca, we'll find out when she gets home."

The ship was being towed through pirate-infested waters in the Indian Ocean to the Seychelles for expected arrival by Thursday.

The passengers on board the Costa Allegra spent a second night on the ship's decks in sweltering temperatures after a fire on Monday took out the air-conditioning system along with the entire power supply and the engines.

A French tuna fishing boat, the Trevignon, responded to the Costa Allegra's mayday call and was towing the boat solo, crawling along at a speed of around six knots (11 kilometres per hour) through calm seas.

A helicopter on Tuesday brought food, satellite phones and VHF radios to the ship and cruise operator Costa Crociere said in a statement that a second helicopter run on Wednesday would deliver fresh bread and flashlights.

Two Seychelles customs officials were also due to board the vessel on Wednesday, along with eight members of Costa Crociere's "Care Team", it said.

Two Seychelles tugboats were also on hand to provide support if needed.

The company said it expected the Costa Allegra to arrive in Mahe, the main island of the Seychelles archipelago, in the early morning of Thursday.

It also said a Seychelles coast guard vessel brought a small emergency power generator to the Costa Allegra on Tuesday to help restore some basic services.

An Indian naval aircraft flying overhead on Tuesday took photographs showing people crowded around one of the cruise ship's swimming pools.

Relatives of the people on board said they were anxious to speak to their loved ones, who are still far from mobile network coverage.

"I'll only be calm when I can speak to her," Luigi Tortorella, brother of Angela Tortorella who works as an animator on the ship, told ANSA news agency.

"The news that Costa gave my parents today was reassuring but to speak on the phone and hear her would be something else entirely."