With dry land agonizingly close, a crippled cruise ship described as a nightmare of filth limped Thursday toward an Alabama port — and finally relief for passengers who say they are exhausted after days without sufficient food, power or working bathrooms.
Helicopter footage showed the ship in the open Gulf of Mexico, with passengers holding giant signs reading “SOS” and “Help! Get us to Eunice, LA.”
Extending the ordeal for the more than 4,000 people aboard, Carnival said its Triumph cruise liner would be towed in to Mobile, Ala., between 9 p.m. and midnight ET. Earlier estimates had put the ship in port about six hours earlier.
Later Thursday, with the vessel in sight from shore, a cable snapped between the Triumph and one of the four tugboats dragging it to land, forcing a delay in the rescue. Carnival confirmed the mishap on Twitter.
A fire in the engine room Sunday disabled the ship about 150 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The flames were put out without any injuries, but passengers have described the conditions since as sweltering, unsanitary and becoming dangerous.
“It smells like the zoo ... it’s horrible,” passenger Shannon Caceres told NBC News in a telephone interview on Thursday afternoon as the ship approached land. After the power went out and toilets stopped working, the cruise staff instructed passengers to urinate into the showers and put fecal matter into plastic bags,which were regularly collected by room stewards and put into a giant trash bag, Caceres said.
She confirmed reports of passengers being fed onion-and-cucumber sandwiches, but said she has not touched anything the crew has prepared with their hands, choosing instead to subsist on potato chips and pretzels purchased from the gift shop. Many people on board have been getting upset stomachs, she said.
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