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Last Updated: Monday, 14 May 2007, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Alaskan cruise ship runs aground
Map of Alaska
A cruise ship has run aground off the Alaskan coast and started leaking, forcing the evacuation of more than 250 people, US Coast Guard officials said.

The Empress of the North hit a rock or a reef about 15 miles (24km) south-west of the Alaskan town of Juneau.

Coast Guard aircraft were sent after a mayday message was received from the vessel, operated by the Majestic America Line of Seattle.

The ship was said to be listing but there were no reports of injuries.

A Coast Guard vessel and helicopter were on the scene, as well as a tug and a barge with a capacity of 250, spokesman Jeff Carter told CNN.

Passengers and crew were using lifeboats to leave the ship, he said.

Nearby commercial vessels were also helping out, another Coast Guard official told Reuters news agency.

"Several 'good Samaritan' boats are on the scene and taking passengers off," Christopher McLaughlin told the agency.

'Stable'

There was no immediate information on what caused the ship to run aground.

A spokesman for Majestic America, Dan Miller, told Fox News that the ship was not in danger of sinking.

"It is stable and is under its own power and as soon as all the guests and crew are transferred off, she will make her way under her own power over to Juneau where we will assess the damage," he said.

According to Majestic America's website, the 360ft-long (110m) ship has 112 cabins and can carry 223 passengers, as well as 84 crew.




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The cruise ship aground and the evacuation operation



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