December 6, 2022

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Dozens of trapped people rescued after flames engulfed Greek-Italian ferry

Dozens of trapped people rescued after flames engulfed Greek-Italian ferry

  • Ferry sailing from Igoumenitsa to the Italian port of Brindisi
  • Looks like a fire has broken out on hold – fleet spokesperson
  • Most of the passengers are from Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey
  • There were no immediate reports of serious injuries or deaths

ATHENS/ROME (Reuters) – Two people were trapped on a ferry that caught fire as it sailed from Greece to Italy early on Friday after rescuing dozens of other passengers and crew, the coast guard said.

The Greek coast guard added that 239 passengers and 51 crew members were on board the Italian-flagged Euroferry Olympia when the fire broke out, and rescue ships transported most of them to Corfu island, where ambulances were waiting.

“We woke up at around 4:20 a.m. Within an hour we left the ship,” a Greek passenger told Sky TV by phone. “We were rescued by the crew, who acted quickly.”

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Greek authorities said the cause of the fire was still under investigation. There were no immediate reports of deaths or serious injuries. Local health authorities said one person with breathing problems was taken to hospital.

A video clip showed passengers huddled in yellow blankets on board an Italian rescue ship as huge plumes of smoke billowed from the ferry. The words “May Day” were heard repeatedly from the speakers on the ferry, in more footage uploaded to Greek news site Proto Thema.

The Coast Guard said a helicopter was waiting to transport two passengers who were still trapped in the ship’s garage.

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Greek media reported that at least 10 people are feared missing. The authorities were unable to confirm the information, saying that the operation was continuing.

The 183-meter (600 ft) ferry sailed from Igoumenitsa, the largest port in western Greece, and was bound for the Italian port of Brindisi, about nine hours away. Grimaldi Lines, the ship’s owner, said the ship was carrying 153 vehicles, including several trucks.

The fire broke out when the ship was near Corfu in the Ionian Sea. Hours after the alarm was sounded, Grimaldi Lines said, the ship was still on fire and drifted into Albanian waters.

The ferry seats up to 560 passengers, according to the company’s website.

Paul Kyprianou, a spokesman for the Grimaldi Lines, told Reuters there were indications that the fire had started in one of its strongholds. He added that the company was doing its best to help bring the passengers – mostly from Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey – home.

At least four Greek coast guard ships, four planes and a patrol boat of the Italian financial police, Monte Speroni, participated in the rescue.

“The fire was incredibly intense, we were just a few miles from the ferry when it happened,” said Colonel Felice Ludovico Simone Cecchetti of the Italian Financial Police, who was involved in the operation.

“The flames were so big and fast that within five minutes it became difficult for the people on board to control them.”

In 2014, 10 people were killed when the Norman Atlantic ferry, carrying 466 passengers and crew, caught fire as it sailed from Greece to Italy.

Additional reporting by Carolina Tagaris, Rene Maltezo, Lefteris Papademas in Athens, Giulia Segretti and Giselda Fagnoni in Rome; Editing by Sam Holmes, Lincoln Fest, Alex Richardson, Allison Williams and Andrew Heavens

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.