A fire on an Italy-bound ferry in the Ionian Sea early Friday required rescuers to carry out an overnight evacuation of more than 280 people near the Greek island of Corfu, authorities said.
A crew member and two passengers were hospitalized with breathing difficulties. There were no initial reports of anyone missing, but a full check of passenger and crew member lists was expected to take several hours, the Greek coast guard said.
The rescued passengers were being transported to Corfu.
“This is a difficult operation and we must remain cautious. The final accounting of the people on board will take place on Corfu when everyone rescued is assembled there,” Greek Deputy Minister for Shipping Costas Katsafados told state-run ERT television.
The predawn fire broke out Friday on the Italy-flagged Euroferry Olympia shortly after it left the port of Igoumenitsa in northwest Greece for the Italian port of Brindisi with 239 passengers and 51 crew members on board.
The 183-meter (600-foot) ferry, which was built in 1995. was traveling near the small Greek island of Ereikousa, 15 kilometers north of Corfu, when the fire started. Images of the ferry from local television channels indicated the blaze was extensive.
Greek truck driver Giorgos Parlantzas, one of the rescued passengers, recounted what took place on the Euroferry Olympia. “I was sleeping in my cabin when they came to alert us. I grabbed my ID and headed for the deck where people were being assembled. It must have been about 3 or 4 a.m. And we were put onto boats,” Parlantzas told the AP, speaking by telephone after arriving in Corfu.
Six boats from Greece’s coast guard and navy participated in the rescue along with four helicopters, an Italian customs inspection boat and several passing vessels, senior coast guard official Nikos Lagadianos said.
Rescued passengers, some wrapped in foil blankets, arrived in in Corfu aboard the Italian inspection vessel and we’re being taken to an assembly area we’re paramedics were also carrying out first aid checks, local officials said. [AP]