Passengers safely evacuated after ferry hits rock in Aegean

Most of the 485 passengers aboard a ferry that hit a reef near the Aegean island group of Oinousses on Saturday afternoon were safe in Piraeus by yesterday evening. There were no reports of injuries to the passengers following the collision but a 15-meter gash in the hull of the Theophilos caused the vessel to take on water and provoked a small fuel leak. Until late yesterday the vessel remained anchored just off Oinousses waiting to be patched up and transferred to Chios for more substantial repairs. The Theophilos hit a rock near Oinousses just after 6 p.m. on Saturday while on route from Lesvos to Piraeus via Chios. The crew initially told passengers to board lifeboats but then called off the evacuation, saying that the ship was able to advance to Oinousses. Shortly afterward, however, passengers were asked to board small tourist boats and transferred to the nearest large island, Chios. The next morning, the majority of passengers boarded ships to Piraeus. It was unclear yesterday when the passengers would be able to get back their cars and luggage, which were still on the ship by late yesterday. Divers were reportedly being dispatched yesterday to try and seal the gash, which is below the vessel’s waterline. Meanwhile, marine experts were cleaning up the fuel leak. All evidence suggests that the collision was the product of human error, a Merchant Marine Ministry official said. The captain of the ship, who reportedly failed to report the collision immediately, is expected to face charges of negligence. The ministry reportedly heard about the incident from news reports on the radio.