Hundreds rescued from burning ferry near Greek island
ATHENS — Hundreds of people were rescued from a burning ferry near the Greek island of Corfu on Friday, according to a Greek coastguard spokesman, who said two passengers were left trapped in the ship’s garage and that at least 11 were missing.
The fire broke out early Friday morning on the deck of the ship, the Euroferry Olympia, which was heading for the Italian port of Brindisi, the coastguard said.
Four Coast Guard vessels, along with Italian financial police vessels, came to the aid of the ferry after its captain made an emergency call.
The ferry departed early Friday morning from the port of Igoumenitsa in northwestern Greece, carrying 239 passengers and 51 crew, along with 153 commercial vehicles and 32 passenger vehicles.
Rescuers were trying to locate the missing passengers, including two people trapped below deck, according to Nikolaos Alexiou, the coastguard spokesman. No deaths or serious injuries have been confirmed, although at least 10 people have been hospitalized, many of whom had difficulty breathing.
Officials said it was too early to say what caused the fire, which was still burning about 12 hours after it started. Video released by the Greek Coast Guard showed flames and thick plumes of smoke engulfing the ferry, which was surrounded by ships spraying it with water cannons. A nearby ship can be heard making a “mayday” call in another video released by Greek public broadcaster, ERT.
“We were in our cabins when the fire started around 4.30am,” a Greek truck driver, who said his name was Vangelis, said in a phone interview with state television from the bridge. from the burning ferry as he waited to board a lifeboat. He said the passengers were moved away from the fire and given life jackets.
Another man, also a Greek truck driver who did not give his name, told a local news site he heard explosions shortly after the fire, which he thought was tires of truck.
Coast Guard vessels and rescue helicopters scoured the area for survivors, while divers were called in for help.
Earlier today, TV news showed passengers arriving at Corfu’s main port. A man wearing an oxygen mask was being transported to an ambulance on a stretcher. Others, with stunned expressions, held blankets around them.
Gaia Pianigiani contributed report.