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Cruise Ship Runs Aground

A cruise ship with more than 250 people on board ran aground on the Columbia River. Officials said no injuries were reported, the vessel wasn't sinking and was not leaking fuel.

The 360-foot Empress of the North - a vessel modeled on the sternwheelers of the 1800s - ran aground Friday between Portland and Washougal, Washington, the Coast Guard said. It sustained some damage, but it was not clear how much, authorities said.

A sister ship, the 230-foot Queen of the West, pulled alongside to take aboard passengers and crew members from the Empress of the North, the Coast Guard said.

A tug wedged a barge between the ships to ensure stability and passenger safety during the transfer, officials said.

The ship's owner, American West Steamboat Co., based in Seattle, was taking the passengers to a hotel for the night while it determines whether they could complete their cruise.

Company president David Giersdorf said 180 passengers and 80 crew members were on board. The Coast Guard however had differing numbers.

The company planned to pull the Empress of the North off the sandbar with a tug and see whether it could continue under its own power to the Port of Washougal for an inspection.

Wind and choppy water may have sent the vessel off course, said Multnomah County sheriff's Lt. Mike Schults.

The Empress of the North left Astoria, Oregon, on Sunday for a weeklong cruise of the Columbia, the company said.

The Empress of the North ran aground in 2003 in the Columbia River. That grounding was blamed on human error, company officials said.