Peruvian police and search parties are scouring stretches of the Amazon River for seven people after an Aqua Expeditions cruise ship exploded, capsized and sank on Saturday.
The explosion happened while the ship was being restocked and there were no passengers aboard. Five of those missing are crew members and two are local suppliers who were with the ship when it blew up and turned turtle.
An Aqua Expeditions company statement said that the 24-passenger Aqua Amazon “suffered a very serious accident… that caused an explosion and resulted in the sinking of the ship”.
Last Thursday, pirates raided and robbed travellers, including Australians, New Zealanders and Americans, aboard a luxury Avalon Waterways Amazon river cruise.
In that incident, the armed bandits used a small craft to reach the vessel Amazon Discovery near Iquitos in Peru. They leapt aboard the ship and robbed passengers and crew of goods worth about USD 20,000. One report says the captain was pistol-whipped and that eight assailants, armed with “large-calibre weapons” were in control of the ship for about half an hour. See: Extra security after pirates raid Avalon river cruise
Following the second incident, the explosion, Aqua Expeditions founder and chief executive, Francesco Galli Zugaro, issued a statement yesterday, as follows:
Following the tragic incident involving the Aqua Amazon on Saturday, July 16, all of our efforts at Aqua Expeditions have been focused on finding the members of our crew who were on board at the time of the accident and were reported missing after the explosion that caused the vessel to capsize.
It was first thought that four crew were unaccounted for; however, this figure rose to five on Sunday night when another crew member could not be located. In addition, there are two external suppliers who are also victims, bringing the total missing to seven people. As of 17:00 EST Monday, July 18, two of the victims have been identified and recovered. Five more remain to be found and recovered.
There are an additional eight crew members in recovery in the hospital following the explosion. Three are in intensive care and the remaining five are receiving the necessary medical attention. We are assuring them the best medical treatment possible.
We have been in close contact with their families and have been keeping them fully informed of news of their loved ones during this difficult time. Many of the crew have been with me from 2007 when we started. I considered them dear friends, not just employees.
The source of the fire and explosion is yet to be determined as preliminary investigations are still underway. We are supporting all efforts by the authorities and will continue to do so throughout the process.
Our industry partners, guests, families and friends have given me and everyone at Aqua Expeditions the strength and commitment to stay united and face this tragedy together. We are overwhelmed with the show of support that is continuing to pour in from all over the world and we will be eternally thankful.
I, along with our media and marketing teams, will be keeping the industry informed of further developments.
Edited by Peter Needham