NEWS

Body recovered from still burning ferry

Body recovered from still burning ferry

The Fire Service reports that the body of a man has been recovered from the still burning Euroferry Olympia ship, off the island of Corfu.

The fire service gave no further details about the person’s identity.

The Italian-owned ferry, which was carrying more than 290 passengers and crew, as well as 153 trucks and 32 cars, caught fire on Friday, three hours after it left the northwestern Greek port of Igoumenitsa, on the mainland, bound for Brindisi, Italy.

The ferry has been towed to the port of Kassiopi, in northeastern Corfu, by three tugboats. Firefighters were still battling the blaze, which, although confined in certain spaces, reignites from time to time, and thick smoke is hanging over the ship.

The extreme temperatures in some parts of the ship have impeded the rescuers, made up of the Greek fire service’s Disaster Management Unit and a team of rescuers from private operators, from searching the whole ship. The ferry is slightly listing from the tons of water poured into it, but authorities say it’s not in danger of capsizing.

Earlier Sunday, a survivor, a Belarussian truck driver in his 20s, had been rescued from the ship. He had been able to make his way up to the deck on his own. He was found on the left rear of the ship.

“The fact that this man succeeded, despite adverse conditions, to exit into the deck and alert the coast guard … gives us hope that there may be other (survivors),” coast guard spokesman Nikos Alexiou told state broadcaster ERT.

The survivor told his rescuers he had heard other voices below deck. Alexiou said his understanding was that he hadn’t heard any just before making his way onto the deck, but added that “the situation is evolving.” The survivor has been taken to a hospital to be examined as a precaution.

The Greek coast guard and other boats evacuated about 280 people to the nearby island of Corfu. One of two passengers rescued Saturday wasn’t on the ship’s manifest and is, presumably, a migrant. The other person rescued Saturday, a 65-year-old Bulgarian truck driver, had respiratory problems and has been hooked to a ventilator in a Corfu hospital intensive care unit.

A Greek prosecutor on the island of Corfu has ordered an investigation into the cause of the fire. The Italy-based company that operates the ferry said the fire started in a hold where vehicles were parked.

The ship’s captain and two engineers were arrested Friday, but were released the same day, authorities said.

Passengers described a dramatic rescue situation.

“We heard the alarm. We thought it was some kind of drill. But we saw through the portholes that people were running,” truck driver  Dimitris Karaolanidis told the AP Saturday. “You can’t think something at the time (other than) your family … When I hit the deck, I saw smoke and children. Fortunately, they (the crew) acted quickly.”

Officials said the people rescued included citizens of Albania, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Italy, and Lithuania.

[AP/Kathimerini]