TWO men have been arrested after a fire on board a ferry sparked an emergency rescue and forced it to return to a North East port.
Two crew members and four passengers had to be winched off the North Sea ferry after they breathed in smoke when the blaze broke out in a cabin room 30 miles from land around 11pm last night.
A 26-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of arson and a 28-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of affray, a spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said.
Passengers began leaving the ferry this morning after arriving back at North Shields.
Some 946 passengers were on board the ferry which was sailing to Amsterdam.
Gert Jakobsen, a spokesman for ferry operator DFDS Seaways, said earlier that police were in control of the King Seaways cruise ferry and were speaking with people on board about the incident.
He added that the ferry would not be continuing its journey and instead will wait until its next scheduled departure to Amsterdam tomorrow morning.
The passenger suspected of starting the fire had been detained on board by ship staff while it sailed back to the port, police said.
The fire broke out in a passenger cabin around 10.45pm and was extinguished by 11pm.
RAF helicopters from Leconfield near Hull and Boulmer, Northumberland were scrambled to the vessel along with RNLI lifeboats from Bridlington and Filey.
Mr Jakobsen added that he expects the injured crew and passengers flown to Scarborough Hospital to be released later today.
A further 15 passengers and eight crew members were treated by doctors for smoke-related injuries on board the ship.
He said the company will try to help passengers forced to abandon their trip to Amsterdam find alternative crossings.
“We are very sorry for those passengers who have not only been affected by the fire but now by these delays,” he said.
“We are looking at how we can help them.
“The cabin that was burnt is very damaged and there has been some smoke damage to surrounding cabins but the ship’s function has not been affected in any way and is safe to travel.”
Passenger Steven Basford said he was kept on the ferry while police went door-to-door to speak to those on board.
The 28-year-old, from Northumberland, who was travelling to Amsterdam with his partner Vic Liang to celebrate New Year with friends, said a fight broke out between two male passengers during the evacuation.
He said: “We were in our room at about 10.40pm last night when they raised the general fire or emergency alarm with seven high pitched siren noises.
“We were told to evacuate outside the ship and when we got outside they asked us to converge around the lifeboats.
“The fire was on our floor but on the other side of the ship. When we climbed up to the communal area we could see the smoke. It wasn’t thick but it was definitely noticeable.
“People were generally pretty calm. Obviously people had had a lot to drink. It’s a bit of a party boat. Two big blokes started brawling.”
Another passenger on board said she was forced to evacuate to the outer deck when the alarm was raised.
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