At least 11 people are missing from the Italian ferry that caught fire in the early hours of Friday off the island of Corfu, Greece.
Hundreds of passengers evacuated the vessel in lifeboats and were transported to Corfu.
In addition to the 11 missing, two more were trapped inside the burning vessel, but the two were eventually freed.
Before being rescued, they communicated with the Greek authorities, but the rescue operation with helicopters was being hampered due to the thick smoke caused by the fire.
The two individuals who were trapped on the ship have been identified; one Bulgarian and one Turkish citizen.
The Italian vessel “Euroferry Olympia” from Grimaldi Lines, carrying 291 passengers and crew members, sailed late on Thursday from Igoumenitsa, Greece towards Brindisi, Italy.
Corfu port authorities announced that at least 280 passengers and crew have been accounted for and identified. Eleven people are still missing as of late afternoon on Friday, including three Greek nationals.
A video showed the ferry engulfed in flames and huge plumes of smoke. The distress signal “May Day” was heard blasting from speakers. Currently there are three fire boats working the scene, which are being complemented with water drops from firefighting aircraft.
The fire reportedly started from the third deck of the ferry, possibly from a truck. There were a total of 153 commercial vehicles on the ferry, along with 32 cars. The captain of the vessel gave the evacuation order at 4:30 in the morning.
The fire was still burning by Friday afternoon; aerial footage released by the Coast Guard showed rows of burnt trucks on the blackened deck after flames swept through the 183-meter (600-foot) ferry that had been making a nine-hour journey through the night.
The Greek coastguards have released this impressive video of the Euroferry Olympia. Images show the extent of the damage caused by the fire. pic.twitter.com/chzXHMH9yZ
— Iliana Mier-Lavin (@imlavin) February 18, 2022
The majority of passengers and crew are Italian nationals, while there are 14 passengers and seven crew members who are Greek nationals.
Deputy Minister of Shipping Kostas Katasafados initially told Skai TV that all passengers and crew members had been rescued and are in good health.
Corfu is receiving the passengers, said the governor of the Ionian Islands Rodi Kratsa. She confirmed that according to her own information, everyone is in good condition.
Ten people who were slightly injured have been transported to a Corfu hospital, Kratsa said and added that the person was injured during the transfer from the burning ship to a lifeboat.
Position der "Euroferry Olympia"#Fire Feuer – #LastTweetshttps://t.co/Pr7LXg8jtq
— Muschelschloss 💬🤞4x💉 (@Muschelschloss) February 18, 2022
Ferry passengers describe “nightmare” of fire
Rescued passengers speaking to Proto Thema described the dramatic scenes aboard the vessels. At first, as they say, there was a lot of confusion, but with the right guidance, given to them by the crew, everything went smoothly.
“If the crew had not reacted immediately, I do not know what would have happened, maybe the fire would have engulfed us,” a truck driver said.
Σε εξέλιξη η επιχείρηση κατάσβεσης στο E/Γ-O/Γ Euroferry Olympia 🛳, στη θαλάσσια περιοχή ΒΑ της νήσου Ερεικούσσας. pic.twitter.com/qCfSJ64t1t
— Πυροσβεστικό Σώμα (@pyrosvestiki) February 18, 2022
“The flames started coming out of the outer decks after we had evacuated the ship. It was then that we heard explosions, probably coming from the exploding vehicles. The crew was organized and trained,” he added.
“It was a nightmare,” said another passenger who was certain that the fire started at the garage in the lower deck of the ship. “People were running around scared but fortunately, everything went well.”
In 2019 more than 500 passengers were evacuated when a fire broke out on an Igoumenitsa to Venice ferry.
In 2014, 10 people were killed when the car ferry Norman Atlantic carrying 466 passengers and crew caught fire while sailing from Greece to Italy.
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