Major rescue operation underway after ferry catches fire off Corfu

A fire broke out on the car deck of a ferry carrying 478 people from Greece to Italy early Sunday, forcing authorities to order an evacuation.

Nearby ships have been instructed to take passengers and crew members from the ferry Norman Atlantic, west of the island of Corfu, said Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis.

There have been no reports of injuries. The ship was traveling from the Greek port of Patras to Ancona, Italy.

Varvitsiotis said 35 passengers had been transported in a life boat to a nearby Greek ferry so far, adding that the rescue effort had been hampered by gale-force winds.

“This is a complicated rescue mission … The visibility is poor and the weather conditions are difficult, but we are confident because there are a good number of ships in the area,» Varvitsiotis said.