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Ferry stranded in Baltic Sea with 300 onboard reaches port

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By JAN M. OLSEN, AP
COPENHAGEN, Denmark

A ferry stranded in the Baltic Sea for about six hours with an estimated 300 people on board safely reached its destination Tuesday night, the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda, port authorities said.

The ferry, operated by Copenhagen-based DFDS Seaways, was in international waters off Kaliningrad, a Russian coastal enclave between Poland and Lithuania, when the engine stopped working.

Smoke poured out of the engine room and triggered the fire extinguisher inside the room, the ferry operator said. The breakdown paralyzed the boat for about six hours.

Port spokeswoman Dovile Ringis told reporters the ferry reached Klaipeda at 9:30 p.m. powered by its own engines despite strong wind and waves. It was escorted by Lithuanian navy ships that were dispatched as a precaution.

Emergency crews were on hand at the port, she said.

Earlier, passengers had assembled at muster stations in preparation for a possible evacuation, and rescue ships were scrambled as a precaution. But an evacuation order never came, and there were no reports of injuries.

“We are talking about a malfunction in the engine room that caused a lot of smoke,” DFDS spokesman Gert Jakobsen said.

The ferry, which also carried cars and trucks, was traveling from Kiel, Germany, to Klaipeda, which is north of Kaliningrad. The crossing normally takes about 20 hours.

“On these kinds of crossings we have people from Germany, the Baltic countries and Russia. We cannot say now who was on board,” Jakobsen said.

The ship was about 85 kilometers (50 miles) from Klaipeda when it became stranded, said Vaidas Klumbys, another DFDS spokesman.

He said that on Tuesday afternoon “we received the information from the ship that it was undergoing vibrations and smoke rising from the engines.”

Russian state news agency Tass quoted Andrei Permyakov, head of the sea rescue coordination center in Kaliningrad, as saying that rescuers from Lithuania, Russia and Poland had responded.

Lithuanian navy helicopters and vessels were dispatched to the site in case an evacuation was necessary. The regional news agency, Baltic News Services, quoted Klumbys as saying “the weather conditions are not good.”

Forecasts for the southeastern part of the Baltic Sea said there were gale force winds, rain showers, poor visibility and risk of thunderstorms in the region.

The Regina Seaways was built in 2010 and can carry up to 500 passengers.

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David Keyton in Stockholm, Liudas Dapkus in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Jim Heintz in Moscow, contributed to this report.

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A previous version of this story was corrected to show that Kiel is in Germany, not Lithuania.

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