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A sticken passenger liner, charred and perhaps badly damaged...

NEW DELHI, India -- A sticken passenger liner, charred and perhaps badly damaged by a fire that killed 11 people, limped toward the port of Madras Wednesday with 500 passengers aboard.

The ship -- the M.V. Chidambaram -- was on the Indian Ocean, heading to India on a voyage from Singapore, when the blaze broke out Tuesday, the Press Trust of India said Wedesday.

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The fire erupted in a second-class passenger cabin when the ship was about 180 miles off Madras, on India's southeast coast, said the news agency, quoting official sources. It said the fire raged for about 12 hours.

The Press Trust said 11 people were confirmed dead. The names of the dead were not released and it was not immediately known if they were passengers or members of the ship's crew.

The crew of the 17,226-ton vessel brought the fire under control in 12 hours.

The ship, charred but still seaworth, was limping toward Madras Wednesday, escorted by five other ships.

Authorities said the stricken M.V. Chidambaram was expected to dock at the Madras port sometime Thursday.

There were no further details on the incident. The cause of the fire was not known.

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A Madras Port spokesman told the Press Trust damage to the vessel could be 'quite high.'

The stricken liner is owned by the Shipping Corp. of India. It was being escorted to port by three Indian naval and two merchant vessels.

The Press Trust said the chairman of the company and the director general of shipping were en route to Madras to meet the vessel.

It said Z.R. Ansari, India's minister for shipping and transport, had expressed consolation for the 'loss of lives in the fire.'

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