Ecstasy Nearly Escapes To Sea

More woe nearly befell the fire-damaged Carnival Cruise ship Ecstasy Tuesday night when severe thunderstorms nearly set it adrift. The ship, which still contains most of its former passengers' belonging, broke of one of its moorings and swung into the channel at the Port of Miami. But the Coast Guard had it under control within an hour, reports CBS News Correspondent Peter King.

The passengers themselves generally are trying to make the best of a bad situation, which started when the Ecstasy caught fire Monday and had to turn around just after departing Miami for a four-day cruise. But, without their luggage and other possessions, there is little to do but to wait until investigators finish their work aboard the ship. As soon as that happens, they can start to claim their things.

"We've been wearing these things for two days, and it's not comfortable, said Brenda Walker of Nashville, Tenn. Her husband, John, who is celebrating his birthday Wednesday, was trying to remain optimistic, saying. "[The fire] could have happened out at sea, and we could have drifted back toward Cuba, so I don't know what that would mean."

And Vernon Woods of Metrovale, Md., said the whole ordeal "has been one hell of a headache.

Each of the passengers was given $100 and free lodging by Carnival. But Doyle Crocker of Union, S.C., left his wallet and about $2,000 cash in his cabin. "I haven't heard anything or anybody say, 'We'll make it up to you'," Crocker said. "It's almost like that cruise line is not to blame at all."

A welder's spark in a laundry room may have ignited lint in the air-conditioning vents and touched off a fire that quickly spread two decks above to the outside mooring area, where nylon rope fed the flames, Carnival Cruise Lines president Bob Dickinson said.

Robert Francis, National Transportation Safety Board vice chairman, said it was too early to draw any conclusions.

Of the nearly 3,500 people on board, 54 were treated for minor injuries, most for smoke inhalation. One had a heart problem. Twenty were taken to hospitals, and at least four were admitted overnight.

Fire doors isolated the blaze and the air-conditioning system was shut down to cut the fire's oxygen supply, Dickinson said.

Dickinson commended the 868-member crew's handling of the smoky fire. The blaze broke out shortly after the 855-foot ship set out on a four-night trip to Key West and Cozumel, Mexico.

But passengers said they had complained of smoke coming through cabin vents long before they were told of the fire. Carnival spokesman Tim Gallagher said the first internal alarm sounded at 5:20 p.m.

Dale Palmer, a banker also from Union, S.C., said she told a steward at 4:40 p.m. that smoke was entering her cabin through the air-conditioning duct, and the steward came to her cabin to see it for himself.

"I'm disturbed when I see the president of Carnival on T saying the fire started [later] when I know better. I reported it," she said.