Fierce heat on charred Norman Atlantic slows search for bodies

Italian firefighters and forensic experts searching for bodies inside a fire-charred ferry braved fierce heat and thick, black smoke Monday for the third straight day but still did not reach the crucial site where the blaze broke out, authorities said.

The experts have been trying to get into the Norman Atlantic ferry’s car deck, where a pre-dawn blaze began Dec. 28 while the ship sailed from Greece to Italy, Brindisi Coast Guard Capt. Mario Valente said. High temperatures generated by a slow-burning fire, however, have kept them away.

With strong winds blowing Monday, workers attached cables to make the ferry’s mooring at the dock more secure.

The ferry fire has claimed at least 11 lives. Greece says as many as 19 people might be still unaccounted for; Italy says that figure could be higher. There are fears that some drivers were sleeping in their trucks when the blaze began or that illegal migrants might have stowed away inside vehicles.

Italy says 477 people on the ferry were rescued. Nine bodies were recovered; two bodies were spotted in rough waters in the Mediterranean Sea but weren’t able to be recovered.

Some relatives, including those of a missing Italian trucker, waited anxiously for news from a coroner’s office in Brindisi. But the autopsies, which they hope might help identify loved ones among the bodies, have been delayed until Jan. 12 for technical reasons.