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Tuesday, 2 May, 2000, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
Britons rescued from stricken ship
Stricken ship
The stricken ship ploughed uncontrollably through the reefs
Eight Britons had to be evacuated from a cruise ship after it struck a coral reef in the Pacific Ocean.

All 99 passengers and crew aboard the US-owned World Discoverer were evacuated amid fears the ship was about to capsize.

stricken ship
The ship quickly developed a 20 degree list
"There was a shake and a loud noise and we all turned to one side. We had to get off the ship into the lifeboats," said David Wright, from Hackney in London.

The passengers were ferried from the 3,274-tonne World Discoverer to nearby Ngella island and later taken to the main Solomon island of Guadalcanal by charter vessel.

Mr Wright described how he saw the captain deliberately run the vessel on to a palm-fringed island to prevent it sinking.

Lifeboat problems

"It was just rammed into the beach, breaking trees in the forest which stretches down to the shore," he said. "It was quite spectacular."

Mr Wright, who paid nearly 8,000 for his first-ever cruise, said not all of the cruise ship's lifeboats were working as passengers rushed to escape the stricken vessel.

"We climbed into one lifeboat on the deck and they couldn't get it to work, so we had to get out and go down some stairs to a lower deck," he said.

"It was a good job we were near land and not in the middle of the ocean."

rescued passengers
Passengers recovered at nearby Ngella island
Michael Lomax, president of Society Expeditions, which runs the World Discoverer out of Seattle, said the ship struck an uncharted coral reef in Sandfly Passage, 20 miles north of the Honiara on Sunday.

The area was the scene of heavy fighting between US and Japanese forces in the Second World War and up to 50 ships are said to be wrecked in the sound.

"The captain thought it was necessary to take the vessel and run it up on to the beach so as to safely evacuate the passengers and the crew members," Mr Lomax said. "The ship is in that position right now."

Passengers are due to fly home via Brisbane, Australia, later on Monday.

Surveyors were on the way to the scene to assess damage to the 80-cabin World Discoverer.

"She is on the beach for the most part, but her stern is floating," Mr Lomax said, adding that no oil, petrol or other pollutants had escaped from the hull into the water.

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01 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Cruise liner hits Pacific reef
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