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Cruise Ship Goes Aground on Columbia River

March 25, 2006

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ A cruise ship with more than 250 people on board ran aground Friday on the Columbia River east of here. Officials said no injuries were reported, the vessel wasn’t sinking and was not leaking fuel.

The 360-foot Empress of the North _ a vessel modeled on the sternwheelers of the 1800s _ ran aground between Portland and Washougal, Wash., Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Keith Alholm said from Seattle.

Divers were inspecting the hull to determine whether the ship is floatable, authorities said.

The vessel is carrying 227 passengers and 30 crew members, Alholm said. The ship’s owner _ American West Steamboat Company _ said there were 180 passengers and 80 crew members.

Passengers remained on board as officials tried to determine whether to remove them as the vessel rests on the sandbar or allow them to disembark when it returns to Washougal.

A decision could take hours, said Multnomah County sheriff’s Lt. Mike Schults.

Schults said wind and choppy water may have sent the vessel off course.

The Empress of the North left Astoria, Ore., on Sunday for weeklong cruise of the Columbia, said April Matson, spokeswoman for the ship’s owner.

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