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ACCIDENT - LATVIA

German cruise ship passengers evacuated

2 min

662 passengers of the German cruise ship 'Mona Lisa' have been evacuated by six Latvian naval vessels. Attempts to refloat the boat failed after it hit a sandbank in the Baltic Sea.

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Rescue workers on Monday completed the evacuation of hundreds of passengers from a German cruise ship which hit a sandbank in the Baltic Sea on Sunday, a Latvian coast guard spokeswoman said.

"A total 662 passengers have been evacuated from the cruise ship Mona Lisa," coast guard spokeswoman Liene Ulbine told AFP Monday. "There are no signs of distress," she added.

"The mood among passengers is good and we have had no medical problems," a representative of ship-owner Lord Nelson-Seereisen, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

The majority of the passengers are elderly Germans. Officials initially said there were 651 passengers on board.

"The passengers are getting off the rescue ships and will be heading to the town of Ventspils, where they will take a train to Riga," Ulbine said.

They would spend Monday night in hotels in the Latvian capital Riga before being flown to Frankfurt or Hamburg, the Lord Nelson-Seereisen representative said.

Six Latvian naval and coast guard vessels were involved in the operation after attempts to refloat the vessel overnight from Sunday failed and warnings of bad weather heightened fears for the passengers aboard the Mona Lisa.

Tow-boats were set to resume efforts to set the ship afloat following the evacuation.

The Bahamas-registered cruise ship is owned by Herbert Fervers, operator of the Lord Nelson-Seereisen German tour company based in Erkelenz, west of Cologne.

A company representative told AFP Fervers had gone to the ship to be involved in the rescue effort.

The Mona Lisa set sail May 1 from the German port of Kiel on a 10-day tour of the Baltic before running aground Sunday 18 kilometers (11 miles) off the Latvian coast in normal weather conditions.

The ship's captain is a Greek, while 68 of its crew members are Ukrainians, according to the Baltic News Service (BNS).

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