Aegean ordeal for 166 ferry passengers

Nine-and-a-half hours after a high-speed ferry issued a distress signal in high seas south of Santorini at 8.20 p.m. on Thursday after letting water into one of its two hulls, evacuation of the disabled vessel was completed yesterday. None of the 166 passengers and 10 crew members aboard the Jet I, which had been heading from Santorini, in the southern Cyclades, to Iraklion on Crete, was injured. Nearly all the passengers arrived at the port of Piraeus yesterday on two cruise ships and a ferry that picked them up from the catamaran 32 kilometers (20 miles) off Santorini, during a joint operation in which a navy frigate, two search-and-rescue helicopters and an air force C-130 transport plane took part along with coast guard vessels and several ferries and freighters. Another five passengers chose to stay aboard the Jet I, which was towed back to Santorini yesterday. Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis said he had ordered ministry inspectors to have a report on the causes of the accident on his desk by Monday. The investigation will also look into why the ship’s wireless systems apparently failed, forcing rescuers to talk to the captain on his mobile phone. Initial reports said the 8-year-old, Swedish-built catamaran had a couple of 2-meter-long cracks near the bow, above the plimsoll line. This could have been caused by high waves. The vessel set off in winds registering 6 Beaufort, which rose to 7-8 in open sea.