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Romanian cruise ship catches fire: one dead

NORWEGIAN and Belgian tourists who were sailing on the Romanian cruise ship Oltenita, which caught fire on Sunday afternoon near the village of Sap, near Gabčíkovo (Trnava region), are happy that they survived, the TASR news agency reported.

However, one person is reported to have died in the incident.

The cruise ship was carrying 70 passengers, mostly pensioners. It sailed from Romania seven days ago. Erling Solberg from Oslo (Norway) lost all his clothes and his passport in the incident.

His wife, Jorun, 68, acted very promptly. She climbed through the window into the cabin and took a bag with his asthma medication and credit cards.

Solberg, 70, was on A deck when the fire broke out. Unfortunately, there was no escape route from this deck. "Me and the other passengers had to climb three metres up a makeshift ladder to B deck," he said.

By that time, there was already a lot of smoke on the ship. Despite suffering from asthma, Solberg stayed on the ship in order to help the other passengers. "The ship was not prepared for such a situation at all, everything was makeshift. Though the crew were very nice, the ship was in a horrible technical condition. It wouldn't have got a licence in Norway," he added.

Mr and Mrs Solberg are flying home on Tuesday from the Vienna airport. The embassy is currently arranging their passports. They are staying at Bratislava's Danube hotel for the moment. "It was terrible, we didn’t expect such a situation. But we are happy we survived," Jorun Solberg said.

There were 30 Belgian passengers on the ship besides the 40 Norwegians. "All the people were helping one another and didn't panic. They were calm and disciplined," André Colassin, 71, from Brussels said.

He also said that the ship was in a bad technical condition. There were no fire extinguishing hydrants, according to him.

"I'm looking forward to going home, but I want to see Bratislava first," he added. He appreciated the embassy representatives' quick help.

Compiled by Magdalena MacLeod from press reports
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