More than 500 passengers and crew were evacuated from a burning ship about a mile off Puerto Rico's north coast on Wednesday, and many required medical care, though there were no reported fatalities or life-threatening injuries. The fire, which erupted in the engine room, burned as hundreds slid down emergency slides from the Caribbean Fantasy, a combination cruise and ferry ship. US Coast Guard boats then carried passengers into San Juan's harbor as helicopters whirred overheard. Other agencies and even private vessels joined in the effort as firefighters were ordered to abandon the ship for their safety.
"It was like something out of a movie," said Maria Prensa, a 64-year-old Dominican passenger, tells the AP. "You panic when you see that. You're in the middle of the ocean and there's a fire. Imagine that." The mostly Dominican passengers included dozens of school-age athletes headed to competitions in Puerto Rico, including a cycling team, a girls' volleyball team, and a boys' baseball team. Federal authorities are interviewing the captain, says Angel Crespo, director of Puerto Rico's Emergency Management Agency. He says 105 people were treated at the scene, mostly for heat stroke, shock, and dehydration, and 24 others were hospitalized, including a man who broke his leg while going down the emergency slide.