Scenes bringing in mind ancient Greek tragedy were unfolded in Athens International Airport (AIA) “Eleftherios Venizelos” earlier today upon the arrival of the “Norman Atlantic” naval tragedy Greek victims’ bodies. The C-27J of the Hellenic Air Force carrying the corpses of the three Greek victims landed in AIA at around 5:00 pm while numerous victims’ relatives were on the scene waiting for their beloved ones’ remains.
According to the Greek National Defense Ministry, the corpses’ transfer was scheduled for yesterday, although bureaucracy forced authorities to postpone it. Furthermore, the corpses’ transportation cost was entirely covered by the Greek Ministry, after an order issued by Minister Nikos Dendias, following cooperation with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ office and the government’s General Secratariat. According to the same order, the aircraft carrying the Greek victims’ remains departed from Bari and landed at AIA and not the Elefsina Military Airport in order to avoid any further inconvenience for the victims’ relatives.
Several victims seem to have died due to very low temperature, as according to the first necropsies, when they deserted the burning ferry, they jumped in the sea, where they died. Some of the corpses also carry burns but according to the doctors these did not cause their death. According to an Italian media report based on the autopsies, the three Greeks must have died minutes after they were found in the cold Adriatic Sea waters.
The latest news emerging from Italian authorities indicate that the number of those missing was yet again raised to 40, among whom are 32 Greek nationals, although such a development has not been confirmed by the Greek side.
Italian-flagged passenger ferry “Norman Atlantic,” which belongs to Greek ferry line ANEK, sailing from Patras in western Greece to the Italian port of Ancona, was 33 nautical miles off the small island of Othonoi when it sent a distress signal on December 28. The prosecutor of Bari, who is in charge of the investigation regarding the naval tragedy, will seek the assistance of Greek, German and Turkish authorities in order to identify the corpses found through DNA tests. The ferry is currently docked at the port of Brindisi, although the city’s municipal authorities have declared that they will allow the charred ferry to remain there for two months at the most.