Ferry towed to port as probe into fire widens

Tugboats were finally able on Friday to tow the ill-fated Norman Atlantic to the port of Brindisi in Italy, allowing rescue teams to search the Greek-hired passenger ferry that caught fire on Sunday as it was traveling from Greece to Italy.

At least nine people have been confirmed dead – two of them Greeks – though there has been significant confusion regarding the number of passengers who were on board the vessel when the fire broke out.

According to the Greek coast guard, a total of 19 people are still unaccounted for, among them 10 Greeks, up from nine previously after the body of a man had been mistaken as being that of a Greek national. Italian media has suggested the number of missing may be as high as 90. Authorities have also had trouble keeping track of the 400-plus people who were rescued from the ship, with lists often showing different name spellings for the same individual or missing people entirely.

Greek authorities also note that further confusion may arise from the possibility that tickets were issued on board the vessel and were not registered on the operating company’s booking system.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor’s office in Bari on Friday widened the probe into the accident. Italian news agency ANSA said that an investigation has been ordered into two other crew members and two representatives of the Greek ferry line Anek, which rented the Norman Atlantic, in addition to the ship’s captain and the head of the company that built the ferry – both Italians.

A separate probe has been launched by Greek judicial authorities into whether all necessary safety procedures and measures had been adopted.

Firefighters boarded the ferry Friday to put out residual blazes before rescue crews search for more possible bodies. Relatives of Greeks known to have been on the ferry, meanwhile, traveled from Thessaloniki to Italy Friday in the hope of locating their loved ones.

“We hope to find him alive, even if he is badly injured. We will search every hospital in Italy if need be,” the son of a missing truck driver from Serres told Athens-Macedonian News Agency on Friday.