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Passengers rescued from cruise ship off Alaska

Story Highlights

• Ship traveling to Juneau, Alaska, under its own power
• All 206 passengers evacuated, U.S. Coast Guard says
• Empress of the North ran aground after midnight
• No reports of injuries
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(CNN) -- All of the passengers aboard a U.S. cruise ship were evacuated early Monday morning after it ran aground off the southeastern coast of Alaska, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska state ferries and about 50 volunteer rescue boats removed the 206 passengers aboard the Empress of the North, approximately 50 nautical miles (57 miles) from Alaska's capital, Juneau, near Icy Strait and Chatham Strait.

The ship was still flooding, but was traveling to Juneau under its own power. Some of the crew members stayed on board for the trip. (Watch the passengers being evacuated from the ship Video)

An oil tank was breached, but there is no pollution in the water, officials said.

Coast Guard spokesman Mark Guillory said the Coast Guard was trying to decide where to send the ship for an investigation into why it hit rocks in the island-dotted Alaska coastal area. Empress of the North was on the second day of a seven-day cruise from Juneau.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it is sending a team to Juneau investigate. The team is expected to arrive later Monday.

The ship had stabilized after taking on water and listing in the chilly 45- to 50-degree Fahrenheit glacier-fed water.

The rescue effort was conducted in rainy conditions with winds blowing at about 17 mph (15 knots).

"Not perfect, but manageable," Coast Guard Cmdr. Jeff Carter said of the weather regarding the rescue.

Dan Miller, a spokesman for the ship's owner, Majestic America cruise lines, said the passengers were being taken to Juneau.

There were no reports of casualties or people in the water.

Carter said a tug and barge with a capacity of 200 people was sent as well as a cutter, the Liberty, and a helicopter.

In March of last year, the same ship, which was built to resemble a Mississippi River paddleboat, slammed into a sandbar while cruising the Columbia River, which separates Oregon and Washington, according to reports.

In that incident, a sister ship, the Queen of the West, pulled alongside and took on the Empress of the North's passengers. The Empress also ran aground in the Columbia River in 2003, the year it made its debut as a cruise ship.

That incident was blamed on human error, according to reports.

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