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Cruise ship tilting dangerously in Norway after Thursday fire

Cruise ship tilting: Police Chief Jon Steven Hasseldal said the ship had been tilting at an angle of 21.7 degrees, which is over what is considered a critical line of 20 degrees.

By Bjoern H. AmlandAssociated Press / September 16, 2011

MS Nordlys cruise liner is seen at the quayside in Aalesund early Friday morning. Two people died after the cruise liner caught fire off Norway's coast on Thursday. The ship is listing 20 degrees an it is a danger for capsizing. A crane vessel has now arrived and is trying to stabilize the ship.

Haakon Mosvold Larsen/Scanpix Norway/Newscom

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OSLO, Norway

Rescue teams pumped water from the hull of a Norwegian cruise ship that listed dangerously Friday, a day after a fire on board killed two crew and forced the evacuation of 260 other people, officials said.

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Police Chief Jon Steven Hasseldal said the ship had been tilting at an angle of 21.7 degrees, which is over what is considered a critical line of 20 degrees.

Despite the list, a Dutch salvage team managed to place three pumps inside the vessel on Friday morning.

"At the moment it looks promising," Hasseldal told reports at the dockside. "It's still a serious situation ... but now there is a bit more stability in the ship."

A fire in the engine room of the MS Nordlys on Thursday morning caused the evacuation of the ship before it was due to arrive at Aalesund, 230 miles (375 kilometers) northwest of the capital of Oslo. All 207 passengers were evacuated safely into lifeboats or after it docked.

Two crew were found dead in the engine room while nine others were admitted to hospital, two of whom had serious injuries, including burns and smoke inhalation. Three rescue workers were treated for mild injuries from inhaling smoke.

Police said they suspected an explosion in the engine room but did not know what caused it.

"Nothing indicates sabotage or points to terror," said Trygve Oedegaard, head of operations at the Aalesund police.

Thick black smoke billowed from the stern of the ship, operated by the Hurtigruten line, when it sailed into Aalesund. Police sealed off parts of the town as smoke engulfed nearby buildings.

Passengers said the evacuation was orderly and calm.

"It was a well-organized evacuation," Danielle Passebois-Paya, a French tourist, said. "The crew did a really good job. Everything was calm and went smoothly. There was no panic."

Hurtigruten said it was organizing emergency passports and providing money for the passengers who had to leave their belongings on board during the evacuation.

The shipping line's CEO Olav Fjell said that finding alternative transport for those who wanted to continue their journey would be difficult.

"Our other ships are fully booked so it has been difficult for us to find alternatives for those who would like to continue their journey," Fjell said.

Salvage teams worked through the night but were forced to leave the ship as it continued to tilt. They resumed pumping operations from outside after holes were drilled into the hull to enable insertion of hoses.

Hasseldal said that a floating crane was also being used to stabilize the tilting vessel.

The MS Nordlys is one of 12 Hurtigruten vessels that ply Norway's craggy coast on the popular 1,500-mile (2,500-kilometer) route to the northern town of Kirkenes, high above the Arctic Circle and near the Russian border.

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