Page last updated at 15:03 GMT, Monday, 5 May 2008 16:03 UK

Mass evacuation from Baltic ship

Cruise ship Mona Lisa
It is not yet clear why the ship ran aground

Latvian authorities have begun evacuating hundreds of people from a cruise ship stuck on a sandbank.

So far tugs have failed to free the Bahamas-registered Mona Lisa, which ran aground off Latvia on Sunday with nearly 1,000 people on board.

Officials say there is no danger to the passengers, most of whom are German.

The ship set sail from the German port of Kiel on 1 May for a 10-day Baltic cruise. It had been en route to Riga in Latvia when it hit a sandbank.

A total of 984 people are on board - 651 of them passengers, mostly elderly German tourists. Not all of the crew are being evacuated.

It is not yet clear how the 30,000-tonne liner came to run aground some 18 km (11 miles) off the Latvian coast in normal weather conditions.


Latvia's Defence Minister Vinets Veldre, who is overseeing the operation on board the cruise ship, told the BBC the atmosphere was calm and that he would stay behind until the last passengers had been taken to safety.

Six Latvian vessels and one from Sweden are involved in the salvage and evacuation, Lena Olbina, spokeswoman for the Latvian Coastguard Service, told the BBC News website.

She said the passengers were being taken to the port of Ventspils, about 37km (23 miles) away, where they would get medical attention if needed.

The German-owned liner is operated by the Lord Nelson-Seereisen German tour company.

Obese tourist airlifted from ship
22 May 07 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
Woman names largest cruise ship
30 Apr 08 |  Hampshire
Three 'Queens' in final meeting
22 Apr 08 |  Hampshire
Navy helps evacuate stricken ship
01 Feb 07 |  Hampshire
Evacuees recount Antarctic escape
25 Nov 07 |  Americas
Country profile: Latvia
23 Jan 08 |  Country profiles

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific