More than 500 travelers were evacuating on Wednesday from a from a ferry fire around a mile off Puerto Rico’s north drift. The fire continued on board the Caribbean Fantasy, a dual ferry and cruise ship, as the U.S. Coast Guard started bringing passengers into the San Juan harbor.
The Coast Guard said that all crew and passengers had been safely evacuating. Caribbean Fantasy was landing in San Juan when the flame broke out, Coast Guard representative Ricardo Castrodad said. Gyno Funes was one of two mechanics in the control room when a fuel hose burst open and caught fire. “We were trying to extinguish it for two hours, but couldn’t,” said the other mechanic, Marlon Doblado.
105 people were treating at the scene mostly for shock, dehydration, and heat smoke. 24 remain in the hospital. However, no serious injuries are reported.
Most of the passengers on board were Dominican. Many were school aging athletes on their way to competitions in Puerto Rico. Among them, a 22-part cycling group, a young ladies’ volleyball group, and young men’s baseball group. Those who did not require medical attention were put on city transports and removed from the scene.
Passenger Fiordalise Pitchard was a trip to Puerto Rico for vacation. “I feel nervous,” she said, her hands trembling. “I was in the restaurant when I saw the smoke. I’m giving all the glory to the Lord today.”
Anguished relatives of travelers, including Hilda Pereira, pushed their way onto the scene. Her little girl, whom she has not seen for a long time, was on board the boat during the ferry fire. Pereira said she was at the beauty salon when her sister called to inform her. “She said, ‘You need to be strong,'” Pereira said. “The ferry has caught on fire. The flame starting in the motor room and was spreading to whatever is left of the boat, Miami-based Coast Guard representative Marilyn Fajardo said by telephone.
The boats run a few times week by week between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.