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More than 4,000 passengers and crew are stranded on a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico about 500 miles southeast of Galveston. They have no running water, no hot food, and toilets that are only starting to be brought back online.

An engine fire knocked out the propulsion system and left the Carnival Triumph dead in the water. Tow boats reached the cruise liner Monday and begin hauling it to Mobile, Alabama, where the passengers will be able to disembark.

But reports from passengers aboard the Triumph say the situation has gone from bad to worse, forced to wait hours for food and with water being rationed.

Stranded on the huge ship with more than 4,000 others, Donnell King described the experience as being very difficult.

People are sleeping in hallways, said King over the phone. I mean, there's just mattresses and people collected everywhere.

He said passengers have to use showers to urinate; they are using trash cans to defecate.

Some passengers have even reported seeing sewage running down cabin walls.

News 8 learned Monday a group from North Texas is among those waiting to be towed back to shore.

Heather Lawley and Candice Rousch are traveling with 110 area Jazzercise instructors and students who are on the disabled Carnival cruise ship.

Steve Lawley said he talked to his wife Sunday night; she told him conditions on board were deteriorating quickly.

"She said it was dark and eerie," Lawley said. "People were finding lounge chairs on the deck and trying to find any place they could sleep."

Five instructors and 10 students from Plano Jazzercise are on the ship with that group. Bonnie Lawrenz, who owns the business, said she chose not to go on the four-day cruise from Galveston to Cozumel and back.

"My main concern is their safety and them getting home," Lawrenz said. "I'm kind of scared for them, being in the middle of the ocean, adrift."

News 8 talked Monday with Nicole Brown, a 34-year-old passenger from Dallas. She described long lines to get food and declining sanitary conditions.

Heather Lawley told her husband another Carnival ship loaded emergency supplies and food onto the Triumph, for their slow, return to shore, which was originally planned to be Progreso, Mexico on the Yucutan Peninsula. Because the ship had drifted closer to the U.S., it is now being towed to the port at Mobile.

"It is frustrating because we don't know when they'll be home," Lawley said.

Passengers say while backup generators are on, it's doing little to bring the ship back to normal.

Carnival said the company is terribly sorry for the inconvenience, discomfort and frustration. All passengers will receive a full refund.

KHOU reporter Tiffany Craig in Lake Jackson, Texas contributed to this report.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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