LUXURY LINER ON FIRE, EVACUATED WEST OF TAHITI

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PAPE'ETE, Tahiti (Oceania Flash) - One of Tahiti's most famous luxury liners, the Wind Song, had to be evacuated early on Monday due to a fire onboard, as it was carrying some 127 passengers and 92 crew members in the Leeward Island group.

According to Tahitipresse, the cause of the fire, believed to have started in the engine room, was not immediately known. The ship was located 12 nautical miles off Tahaa Island.

The decision to evacuate was made half an hour later by France's representative in French Polynesia, High Commissioner Michel Mathieu after Wind Song's skipper said he could no longer rely on electricity to fight the fire.

All passengers were transferred to the "Aremiti", a ferry that was sent to the rescue, then onto nearby Raiatea Island. No casualties were reported.

The passengers are to be flown back to Tahiti later today.

Wind Song owner, American Seattle-based company Windstar cruise, while confirming the evacuation, said 17 persons were still on board to fight the blaze, with the help of two French Navy ships deployed under the French territory's emergency plan.

The Wind Song, a four-mast luxury liner, was built 15 years ago in France. It operates West of Tahiti, in the Leeward group, where such islands as Bora Bora are located. Its main clientele consists of American and French tourists.

Oceania Flash/SPC E-mail/Courriel : PatrickD@spc.org.fj and padec@iname.com 

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