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Cruise ship fire blamed on leak

MOBILE, Ala. — A Coast Guard official said Monday the cause of the engine-room fire on the Carnival cruise ship Triumph was a leak in a fuel oil return line.

Commander Teresa Hatfield gave the description in a conference call with reporters and estimated that the investigation of the disabled ship would take six months.

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Hatfield said the Bahamas —where the ship is registered, or flagged — is leading the investigation, with the Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board leading US interests in the probe.

She said investigators have been with the ship since it arrived Thursday in Mobile. Interviews have been conducted with passengers and crew and forensic analysis has been performed on the ship, she said.

She said the crew responded appropriately to the fire. ‘‘They did a very good job,’’ she said.

In an e-mail after Monday’s call, Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Diaz described the oil return line that leaked as stretching from the ship’s No. 6 engine to the fuel tank.

The Triumph left Galveston, Texas, on Feb. 7 for a four-day trip to Mexico. The fire paralyzed the ship early Feb. 10, leaving it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico until tugboats towed it to Mobile.

Passengers described harsh conditions on board: overflowing toilets, long lines for food, foul odors, and tent cities for sleeping on deck.

Hatfield said investigators from the Coast Guard and NTSB would stay with the ship until about the end of the week.

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