Mr. Zugaro offered no explanation regarding why the river cruise boat exploded. The press statement says that the incident occurred "during the regular Saturday supplying and turn-around hours for re-stocking of the vessel."
Mr. Zugaro also did not disclose the number of crew members who were were reportedly injured but did state that four crew members are missing. No passengers were on the ship at the time of the explosion.
Daniel Carbajal of the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio took photos of the burned river boat (left and below). He reports that the explosion occurred during a fueling operation due to a "short circuit" leading to two explosions and a fire, resulting in 13 crew members of the ship being injured. The incident occurred "in the port of Enapu, located along the Itaya River, Punchana district in Iquitos (Loreto)." The explosion reportedly blew a hole in the ship and it partially sank on its side.
The Peruvian newspaper also states that "the first police investigations reveal that aquatic ship arrived to the port to fill the gas tank without any security measures. The incident caused burns to 8 people, who had to jump into the flowing and being rescued by residents and staff Enapu who was nearby . . . It is presumed that some people were trapped inside the ship."
The news report further states that ‘the search was called off at nightfall due to lack of equipment necessary for the work."
River cruises on the Amazon have been in the news lately. Armed bandits robbed passengers aboard the Amazon Discovery last week. In April, a deadly fire aboard the La Estrella Amazonica resulted in the death of two American passengers. The media downplayed this latest robbery on the Peruvian Amazon which comes after a number of recent incidents as well as similar robberies dating back of the course of many years. It was widely reported that the 8 armed bandits robbed the passengers of a total $20,000. We have been contacted by a number of passengers one of who states that some of the passengers were physically assaulted. One passenger left a comment indicating that the "the truth is each of the 30 passengers lost about $20,000." We are told that the Amazon Discovery had no security personnel aboard the river cruise boat at the time of the attack.
Photo Credit: Daniel Carbajal of El Comercio
Update: ENCA reports that "one cruise-ship employee reported that the explosion may have been sparked by crews doing welding work."
July 19 2016 Update: Jill Hammer Malott, one of the daughters of Drs. Larry and Christy Hammer, writes about the troubling trend on the Peruvian Amazon River. Her comments follow the Aqua Amazon’s sinking on Saturday and the robbery aboard the Amazon Discovery one day earlier. These two incidents come on the heels of the tragedy aboard International Expeditions’ La Estrella Amazonica in early April, when her parents – Drs. Larry and Christy Hammer – died in a cabin fire (see comments in article) that started through no fault of their own.
“Between robberies and deadly fires, a string of recent tragedies on the Peruvian Amazon is a sad reminder that many cruise companies—including those based in the United States—cut corners on basic safety and security measures, routinely risking the lives of passengers and crew alike. My parents died aboard La Estrella Amazonica in April, after a fire erupted in their cabin through no fault of their own. My family has seen first-hand how the absence of things like in-room fire alarms, flammability-rated power strips, and a well-trained crew can have fatal consequences. We’ve also experienced how hard cruise companies—in our case, International Expeditions, an eco-tourism company based in Alabama—work to brush these incidents under the rug in an effort to mitigate public relations damage. It is our fervent hope that more accountability is demanded of the cruise industry operating in the Amazon in the wake of these tragedies.”
July 18 2016 Update:
Peru This Week reports that the crew casualties are up to 7 dead and 13 seriously burned. The article says that "although the causes of the accident are still being investigated, police officials have indications that a short circuit may have caused the explosion . . .
While the company Aqua Expeditions recognizes that the accident happened during the refueling of the ship, they’ve said that it was done properly, following all the safety guidelines.
However, police sources indicate that the vessel did not comply with all the safety measure required during fueling. The harbormaster would not comment until the completed their investigation."
International Business Times (IBT) posted a video of the aftermath of the explosion and fire (below):