MOBILE, Ala. — Authorities were searching for shipyard worker who was thrown into the water in strong winds that also tore a troubled Carnival cruise ship away from the dock at an Alabama port.
Wind gusts near hurricane strength shoved the 900-foot Carnival Triumph free from its mooring Wednesday in downtown Mobile, Ala., where the ship was brought after a five-day ordeal that began when an engine fire stranded it off of Mexico in February. Hours later, four tug boats used several mooring lines to secure the ship to the cruise terminal.
The crippled cruise ship, whose sewage-filled breakdown in the Gulf of Mexico subjected thousands to horrendous conditions, was being repaired at the dock when it tore loose, lumbered downriver and crunched into a cargo ship.
The violent weather also blew a nearby guard shack into the water. One shipyard worker was rescued and crews were searching for another, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said, but the cruise ship’s mishap was unrelated.
Coast Guard officials said they saw no sign late Wednesday of the missing employee of BAE Systems, which runs the shipyard.
Authorities are unsure of how deep the water is where the men fell in, but the company’s website mentions its ship-repairing operation is adjacent to a 42-foot, deep-ship channel.
“The search continues for the second pier worker,” Carnival Cruise Lines said in a statement on Twitter on Wednesday night. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the missing shipyard employee and the family.”
As for the cruise ship, some crew members and workers had been staying on the ship while it was being repaired and people could be seen looking out the windows and on the deck of the ship Wednesday. Carnival said all 600 of its crew members and 200 contractors who were working aboard were safe.
“There are no reports of injuries,” said Carnival, which also said “damage is limited” from Wednesday’s incident.
A 20-foot gash about 2 to 3 feet wide was visible about halfway up the hull from the water and it wrapped partway around the stern. Underneath the gashed area, two levels of railing were dangling and broken. Electric cables that had been plugged in on shore were dangling from the port — or left — side of the ship.
An engine fire disabled the Triumph on Feb. 10. Passengers say they endured terrible conditions on board, including food shortages, raw sewage running in corridors and tent cities for sleeping on deck.
Tugs slowly towed the ship into port in Mobile, where it has remained under repair.
After the ship escaped Wednesday, it rested against a cargo vessel. It drifted for a couple of hours before being secured as of 5 p.m., and then moved to the Mobile Cruise Terminal, Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said.
The pier where the ship was docked wasn’t damaged but one adjacent to it was when the ship bumped into it, said BAE spokesman John Measell.