VIDEO: Galapagos tourists evacuated in major catamaran blaze

A tourist catamaran carrying 25 people in the Galapagos has burned out and sunk, after a huge blaze broke out on board.

The Ecuadorian navy has confirmed that all 15 tourists and ten crew members were safely evacuated from the Cormorant I, following the fire. Port authorities say the people aboard the catamaran were from the United States, Canada and Ecuador.

The distressed vessel reported a fire in the engine room in the early hours of Wednesday. The boat, which reportedly passed all technical inspections earlier this year, sank just a few hours after dramatic footage was taken from a nearby vessel.

Amid fears of a fuel spill in the protected area, which is a rich site of biodiversity, the Galapagos National Park has issued a statement confirming that the boat’s diesel had been consumed during the fire. Environmental officials are conducting an inspection on-site.

Passengers and crew were taken to Puerto Ayora on nearby Santa Cruz Island for medical care.

According to travel company Royal Galapagos, the Cormorant I was a modern catamaran that could accomodate 16 passengers in luxury cabins and suites, all with private balconies, panoramic windows, and luxury amenities. Social areas included two bars, briefing room, indoor dining room, alfresco dining area, and a panoramic sundeck with a jacuzzi. It underwent a major refit in 2020.

The Cormorant I before the fire

The Galapagos marine reserve, in which industrial fishing is prohibited, is the second-largest in the world.

More than 2,900 marine species have been reported within the archipelago, which is a Natural World Heritage Site.

Ecuadorian president Guillermo Lasso recently increased by nearly 40,000 square miles the protected marine zone around the Galapagos Islands. Extending the marine reserve around the archipelago was the first step in a plan agreed by Ecuador with Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama at last year’s COP26 in Glasgow to create a submarine corridor through which endangered sea creatures threatened by climate change could migrate safely.

Three weeks ago, a scuba diving boat carrying 2,000 gallons of diesel sank off Santa Cruz island in the Galapagos, with four crew on board.

The diesel spill caused no ‘significant’ damage, according to a Galapagos National Park statement issued after the incident. No one was hurt.