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Image: Costa Allegra
Tano Pecoraro  /  AP
An undated picture of the Costa Allegra cruise ship in Genoa's Harbor Italy. The Italian coast guard says a fire broke out on the ship off the Seychelles islands, Feb. 27. The ship owner Costa Crociere says in a statement there were no injuries or casualties among the 636 passengers and 413 crew members.
NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 2/28/2012 8:14:55 AM ET 2012-02-28T13:14:55

A French fishing vessel on Tuesday began towing an Italian cruise ship drifting powerless in the Indian Ocean to a nearby Seychelles island, but was not expected to reach the tiny resort island until Thursday, according to company officials.

A spokesman for Costa Crociere, the cruise company, told NBC News' Claudio Lavanga that the stricken liner carrying more than 1,000 passengers and crew members would arrive at the Seychelles' main island Mahe on Thursday.

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.

Company officials had previously said that they were making arrangements to evacuate people to the island of Desroches later on Tuesday and then take the passengers and crew to the main Seychelles island by plane and fast boats.

Company officials told Lavanga that the port at Desroches, a small, exclusive coral-lined island that has seen such visitors as Prince William and Kate Middletown before the two married, does not fit the safety criteria for a ship of that size.

The company said it was keeping passengers as comfortable as possible.

"Helicopters will ensure continuous supply of food, comfort items, flashlights in order to mitigate guests' discomfort given the difficult conditions on board," Costa said in a statement.

Two boats towing the Costa Allegra back to the Seychelles' main port — Port Victoria — were under escort by the coast guard and military.

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.

Video: Another Costa cruise ship in trouble (on this page)

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.

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The power burnout 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.

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"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.

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.

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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.

NBC News, msnbc.com staff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Crippled cruise ship towed in pirate zone

  1. Closed captioning of: Crippled cruise ship towed in pirate zone

    >> with an italian cruise ship floating powerless with more than 1,000 passengers and crew on board in the pirate infested waters of the indian ocean . michelle kosinski has the latest from london. good morning.

    >> reporter: hi, natalie. this is another costa cruise ship , a sister ship to the con concordia that crashed and rolled killing nearly 25 people. this ship is dark and drifting, now being towed for nearly 25 hours. there are more than 600 passengers, including eight americans on the costa allegra now in the indian oceans near the seychelles. where they have been drifting with no a.c., no power, no propulsion for almost a day because a fire broke out in the engine room and took hours to douse. the ship sent out a distress signal while having passengers and crew gather at assembly points. this in waters notoriously infested with pirates. the coast guard said passengers are fine. there are italian marines on board and a seychelles plane flew over. the problems started with a deadly disaster off italy last month. two cruise ships were hit with no ro virus outbreaks and then this on a ship described as shimmers and modern promising new and exciting pleasures every day, but waiting on deck for help to arrive wasn't part of the package. the problem has been getting to the ship to get help. a helicopter was able to bring food and communications equipment. it is now being towed. but it won't be until thursday they can get to the closest island big enough to handle the passengers. the company said it was sincerely sorry for the inconvenience. natalie?

    >> michelle kosinski out of the london bureau this morning. thank you.

Photos: Luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia runs aground

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  1. People on lifeboats evacuate the Costa Concordia after it ran aground on Jan. 13, 2012, killing 32 people. The cruise ship is the subject of the biggest salvage operation in maritime history (Giuseppe Modesti / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Passengers arrive at Porto Santo Stefano on Jan. 14 after the Costa Concordia ran aground off the Italian island of Giglio. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Costa Concordia cruise liner captain Francesco Schettino is escorted by Italian police on Jan. 14, 2012, in Grosseto. Schettino was arrested on charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship, police said. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Firefighters on a dinghy look at a rock emerging from the side of the Costa Concordia on Jan. 15, 2012. (Andrea Sinibaldi / Lapresse via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A woman looks at the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise liner on Jan. 16, 2012. (Gregorio Borgia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A satellite image shows the wreck of the Costa Concordia off the island of Giglio on Jan. 17, 2012. (DigitalGlobe) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Search and rescue teams continue the search for survivors on the Costa Concordia on Jan. 19, 2012. (Tullio M. Puglia / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Police divers look at the bell of the stricken Costa Concordia luxury liner during their underwater search on Jan. 19, 2012. (Carabinieri via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Divers make their way into a flooded cabin of the Costa Concordia cruise ship In this undated photo released by the Italian Navy on Jan. 24, 2012. (Italian Navy / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship lies off the snow-covered island of Giglio on Feb. 11, 2012. (Giampiero Sposito / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A boy prepares to snorkel in front of the wreckage of the capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia on Aug. 28, 2012. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. The Costa Concordia cruise ship lays near the harbor of Giglio on Oct. 14, 2012. The luxury cruise ship capsized and sank on Jan. 13, 2012, after approaching the Tuscan island of Giglio to perform a manuever close to the shore known as a "salute." (Filippo Monteforte / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Workers stand on the Costa Concordia cruise ship near the port on Jan. 8, 2013 on the Italian island of Giglio. (Filippo Monteforte / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. An aerial view, taken from an Italian Navy helicopter, shows the Costa Concordia surrounded by other vessels on Aug. 26. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A diver participates in a search operation Sept. 24, 2013, for two missing bodies onboard the Costa Concordia. The last two missing bodies were recovered on Sept. 26. (Laura Lezza / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Vessels surround the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship during an operation to refloat the boat on July 14, 2014 off the Italian island of Giglio. More than two-and-a-half years after it crashed off in a nighttime disaster which left 32 people dead, the plan is to raise and tow the vessel in an unprecedented and delicate operation for its final journey to the shipyard where it was built in the port of Genoa. (Vincenzo Pinto / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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