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Cruise liner left adrift after fire

An Italian cruise liner carrying more than 1,000 people was adrift without power in the pirate-infested Indian Ocean on Monday after a fire erupted in its generator room. The blaze, which was extinguished, caused no injuries, officials said.

Two tug boats from the island nation of Seychelles were steaming toward the drifting Costa Allegra, which had 636 passengers and 413 crew members on board, but they were not expected to arrive until this afternoon at the earliest.

Monday's fire on the Costa Allegra immediately raised fears, since it occurred only six weeks after one of its sister ships, the Costa Concordia, hit a reef and capsized off Italy, killing 25 people and leaving seven missing and presumed dead. Both ships are operated by Costa Crociere SpA, 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 Monday from company headquarters in Genoa, Italy.

No one was injured in the fire in the generator room, and the cause of the fire was under investigation, Moretti said. The fire knocked out power to the ship's engines, lights and air conditioning.

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.

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.

"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 Seychelles presidential spokeswoman Srdjana Janosevic.