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Disabled Carnival Triumph cruise ship in Gulf of Mexico

4:22 PM, Feb 12, 2013   |    comments
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Carnival Triumph. (AP File)

Gene Sloan, USA TODAY

Passengers on the fire-disabled Carnival Triumph who have been able to reach relatives and news outlets over the past 24 hours are reporting bleak conditions that include overflowing toilets and a ship-wide stench.

In short phone calls and texts made during brief periods of cellphone connectivity, passengers also have relayed stories of long lines for meals and people sleeping on open decks.

"Conditions are getting worse by the hour," passenger Debra Rightmire tells ABC News. "Cabin carpets are wet with urine and water, (and) toilets are overflowing inside cabins. We are having to sleep in the hallways."

Another passenger, Shelly Crosby, tells the network that some people are sleeping in tents set up on the ship's deck and lines for services are brutal.

"We stood in line for four hours to get a hamburger," Crosby says.

The Carnival Triumph was left adrift in the Gulf of Mexico with limited power on Sunday morning after an engine room fire and now is being towed to Mobile, Ala. It's expected to arrive on Thursday afternoon.

With much of the power on the ship down, passengers with cellphones only have been able to call and text from the vessel during brief periods when another Carnival ship with connectivity pulls alongside to drop off supplies.

Brent Nutt, whose wife and sisters-in-law are aboard the Carnival Triumph, tells CNN's Soledad O'Brien today that he spoke to his wife yesterday afternoon and she was "pretty broken up" by the experience.

"The conditions are getting a little bit better. The ship is not leaning quite as bad as what it was," Nutt says his wife told him. "But she said the water pipes on the ship are breaking and ...there's feces all over the floor, and (she) just talk about the horrendous odor that's on the ship. She says that the odor is so bad that people are getting sick."

With the ship dead in the water on Monday, the vessel was listing about 4.5 degrees due to strong winds. Carnival spokesperson Vance Gulliksen tells USA TODAY the list has been reduced to about 2 degrees since towing of the vessel began late Monday night. The list poses no safety risk, Carnival says.

While Sunday's blaze was contained to the Carnival Triumph's engine room with the help of the ship's automatic fire suppression systems, it resulted in a loss of power used to operate air conditioning, elevators and toilets in passenger areas as well as kitchen equipment used to prepare hot meals. For a time, the vessel's freshwater system also was down.

Carnival on Monday said technicians on the Carnival Triumph had restored its freshwater system, and toilets were operating in some parts of the vessel. Some power had been restored to the ship's Lido buffet, allowing for hot coffee and limited hot food service. Power also has been restored to a limited number of elevators on the ship, making it easier for passengers to move around the vessel.

None of the 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew on board the Carnival Triumph were injured during the fire, but on Monday a passenger in need of dialysis was transferred off the ship to another Carnival vessel, the Carnival Legend, for transport to Cozumel, Mexico. Arriving Monday afternoon, the Legend also provided meals for passengers on the Triumph.

Family members of some passengers say they haven't been able to reach their loved ones and are worried.

"It's stressful," Danny Price of Oklahoma tells Tulsa's KJRH-TV of not being able to talk to his wife and other relatives on the vessel. "I'd like to hear from her and know that she's alright and being taken care of."

At the time of the fire, the Carnival Triumph was near the end of a four-night cruise to Mexico out of Galveston, Texas that began on Thursday. The ship had been scheduled to return to Galveston early Monday. Carnival says it is arranging to get passengers back home from Mobile after the ship arrives on Thursday.

The Carnival Triumph fire is just the latest in a string of serious incidents involving cruise ships, most notably the Costa Concordia capsizing in January 2012 that left 32 passengers dead. In another incident this weekend, five crew members of a 1,056-passenger ship operated by UK-based Thomson Cruises were killed in an accident during a safety drill.

USA TODAY

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