10 Dead In Adriatic Sea Ferry Fire As Rescue Mission Is Completed

The ferry was carrying 478 people between Italy, Greece, and Albania. All of the surviving passengers were evacuated by Monday morning.

The fire broke out on the deck of the Italian-flagged Norman Atlantic ship, which was returning to Ancona, Italy from the Greek port of Patras. Two hundred and thirty-four of the passengers and 34 crew members were Greek, Greek Merchant Marine spokesman Nikos Lagadianos told the AP. The rest are from various nationalities not yet specified.

A joint Italian-Greek rescue operation began on Sunday, and about 150 people have been airlifted off the boat so far, CNN reported, though tough waters and making rescue efforts difficult. About 422 passengers and 56 crew members were on board, and many of them remain trapped.

The rescue efforts will continue throughout the night, mostly using helicopters because ships can’t reach the ferry due to bad weather, according to Greek media.

“Superhuman efforts are being made in a difficult operation conducted under adverse weather conditions,” Niko Lagadianos, a spokesperson for the Hellenic Coast Guard, said during a news conference.

Fotis Tsadakidis, who was on the cruise ship, told MEGA TV, that “we saw smoke, heard explosions but an alarm did not go off and there was no coordination.”

Another passenger, Georgios Sarandis told MEGA TV most passengers were sleeping when the fire began. “It was the smell of burnt plastic that tossed us out of bed,” he said.

ITV News said it spoke with a British passenger, Nick Channing-Williams, while he was still on the ship. “I’m staying positive. And hopefully I when I get off, I can find somewhere to charge my phone and let my family know I’m OK,” Channing-Williams said.

Once on the top deck there was some panic, especially when lifeboats were deployed and lots of people tried to get into them. Some passengers made it into lifeboats but in the bad weather, not everyone could get in. He saw at least one lifeboat dropped without anyone in it, and also saw people try to jump into the sea. He later heard reports someone had died – reports confirmed by authorities this evening.

[He said]the ship was ‘listing’ on to its side, which was “very disconcerting,” and felt very unstable. He was told it could take another five hours to get back to safety, but fears the ship, most of which has been burned away, may not last that long.

What We Know So Far

  • A car ferry caught fire off the coast of Greece on Sunday.
  • The ferry was carrying about 422 passengers and 56 crew members, the Associated Press reported.
  • All passengers were evacuated by 7:45 a.m. ET Monday.
  • Rescue efforts were hampered by strong waves, thick smoke, and gale-force winds.
  • Ten people are confirmed to have died.
  • Search efforts will continue to locate any possible missing passengers.

The Italian Coast Guard said another two bodies were found, bringing to death toll to 10. Italian and Greek authorities are working to find any missing passengers.

Many of those rescued were taken to port on board container ships. Below, passengers disembark the Spirit of Piraeus container ship in Bari harbor, Italy, on Monday morning.

Many of those rescued were taken to port on board container ships. Below, passengers disembark the Spirit of Piraeus container ship in Bari harbor, Italy, on Monday morning.

A firefighter carries a child from the Spirit of Piraeus cargo container ship as they arrive at Bari harbour, after the car ferry Norman Atlantic caught fire in waters off Greece, Dec. 29. Stringer/Italy / Reuters

A wounded passenger is helped as he leaves the Spirit of Piraeus. Stringer/Italy / Reuters

Firefighters help passengers leave the Spirit of Piraeus after being rescued from the Norman Atlantic.Stringer/Italy / Reuters

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