Three sailors die in fire on vessel

Procedures began yesterday to bring home the bodies of three Greek sailors that were among nine seamen killed when a Greek cargo ship caught fire off Venezuela on Christmas Day. The blaze is thought to have broken out before dawn either in one of the Aegean Wind’s engine rooms or the mess hall before spreading to other parts of the ship. Six seamen from the Philippines also died in the blaze. None of the dead sailors was named. Another three Greeks, as well as two Filipinos, suffered minor burns while trying to douse the fire. The 10 surviving crew members were airlifted to safety. The Aegean Wind was yesterday being towed to the port of Houston in the USA for repairs. It had been carrying 37,000 tons of iron ore from Brazil to Houston when the blaze broke out 50 kilometers from La Blanquilla island, some 350 kilometers northeast of Caracas. Rafael Lugo, the national commander of Venezuela’s Maritime Rescue and Aid service, said that all the lifeboats on the Aegean Wind were intact and there was no sign that there were efforts to launch them and abandon ship. The cause of the fire had not been determined by yesterday. Greece said that with the help of Venezuelan authorities it would hold an investigation to find out how the blaze began. «Greece, in cooperation with the authorities in Venezuela, will open an inquiry into this tragic incident,» said Interior Minister Michalis Chrysochodis. The Greek government said that one of the aspects of the tragedy which would be probed is whether the vessel, which was built in 1983, had a design fault that prevented the nine sailors who were killed from escaping the fire.

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