The passengers' ordeal is almost over, although the end-game is taking longer than anticipated.
After two tow lines snapped around mid-day today, a Carnival Corp. official estimated this afternoon that Carnival Triumph passengers may not complete debarking from the disabled ship until the wee hours Friday morning.
Terry Thornton, a Carnival Corp. official, estimated that the ship would tie up in Mobile, Alabama, anywhere from 9:30 p.m Thursday to 12:30 a.m. Friday CST, and then it would take another four to five hours to get the more than 4,000 passengers and crew off the ship.
That could mean the last passengers might leave the ship around 5:30 a.m. Friday morning — if everything goes smoothly.
When the tow lines snapped, the ship lost “forward towing capacity,” Thornton said.
There are some complications, he said.
The port in Mobile has never had to handle a ship the size of the 102,000-ton Carnival Triumph, Thornton said, and the debarking process will be slowed because there is only one working elevator on board.
Thornton spoke from the port at Mobile during a live press conference.
He said Carnival has a team of 200 employees waiting in Mobile to assist with the debarkation, and the company has offered hotel stays, day room, food and services to families in Mobile to meet their loved ones onboard the ship.
And, employees at headquarters in Miami have fielded more than 7,000 phone calls from friends and family seeking more information, Thornton said.
People with special needs and children will get first priority in debarking the ship, Thornton said.
One guest had a medical issue and was brought ashore earlier today, he added.
More to come.