The stricken Costa Concordia
Over 1,000 people on a crippled Italian cruise ship from the same fleet as the tragedy-struck Costa Concordia were being towed Tuesday to the main Seychelles island and due to arrive there within two days.
A fire broke out in the engine room of the Costa Allegra on Monday, stalling the vessel in the dangerous waters of the Indian Ocean, where Somali pirates have in the past attacked and captured foreign ships.
Emergency crews onboard extinguished the fire after a few hours and no one was injured, but the stranded liner was forced to make a mayday call, reports AFP.
A French fishing boat, the Trevignon, started towing the ship, with two tugboats from the Seychelles joining alongside on Tuesday afternoon. A coastguard vessel also arrived to provide support, officials said.
"Everything is going well. The weather conditions are fine and even rather good," Pierre-Alain Carre, the operating director of the Brittany-based Compagnie Francaise du Thon Oceanique (CFTO) which owns the Trevignon, told AFP.
"The Trevignon is half as long as the Costa Allegra. This is a ship that is made for pulling very heavy nets," he said.
A second tuna purse seiner owned by the same company was also on its way to help tow the Costa Allegra to the Seychelles' main island of Mahe.
"Arrangements are being made for accommodation, transfers to international flights and other necessary services upon their arrival," said Seychelles presidential spokeswoman Srdjana Janosevic.
"Expected time of arrival is between late evening of Wednesday and early morning of Thursday, depending on the sea conditions," she added.
It was earlier headed to the tiny island of Desroches but the course was changed when officials deemed the facilities there inadequate for large numbers, Costa Crociere, the Allegra's owner and Europe's biggest cruise operator, said in a statement.
Seychelles Tourism Director, Alain St Ange said transporting passengers directly to the main island, even in the boat's current condition, was a better option.
"Transporting passengers and crew from Desroches Island to Mahe would be time-consuming and very expensive," he said.
After the blaze, passengers were all moved onto the ship's outer decks to ensure an easier evacuation if needed, and Indian naval aircraft flying overhead early Tuesday took photographs showing people around the cruise ship's swimming pool.
A helicopter from the Seychelles delivered food and satellite phones to the ship, Costa Crociere said.
The company said helicopters would also ensure a continuous supply of food and other items like torches to the ship as the fire knocked out the liner's electricity system and engines.
Navy planes from India and the Seychelles are taking it in turns to monitor the boat's progress, Janosevic said, adding the situation onboard was "quiet" and that beyond the technical issues "there is no problem for now."
Costa Crociere said all 636 passengers and 413 crew members were in good health.