Eight dead in Greek ferry fire disaster

The evacuation of the ferry was completed in the early afternoon with the rescue of 427 people, including 56 crew members.
An injured passenger is helped off the Spirit of Piraeus cargo ship at Bari, Italy, on Monday. More than 400 passengers and crew were rescued from the Greek ferry that caught fire. Yara Nardi / Reuters
An injured passenger is helped off the Spirit of Piraeus cargo ship at Bari, Italy, on Monday. More than 400 passengers and crew were rescued from the Greek ferry that caught fire. Yara Nardi / Reuters

BARI, Italy // The death toll from a Greek ferry fire in the Adriatic Sea climbed to eight on Monday as Italy’s navy admitted that dozens of people thought to have been on board remained unaccounted for.

The evacuation of the ferry was completed in the early afternoon with the rescue of 427 people, including 56 crew members, said Italy’s transport minister Maurizio Lupi.

The original ferry manifest listed 422 passengers and 56 crew members, but Mr Lupi said it was premature to speculate on whether people were still missing. He suggested that there might have been some people who reserved a spot on the ferry but did not board.

Among the survivors, there were also people not listed on the manifest, indicating the possibility that some on board were traveling illegally.

The fire broke out before dawn on Sunday on a car deck of the Italian-flagged Norman Atlantic. All day and night, passengers huddled on the vessel’s upper decks, pelted by rain and hail and struggling to breathe through the thick smoke.

Four of the dead were found in the water, while the body of a Greek man was recovered on Sunday from a lifeboat chute.

Helicopters defied high winds, stormy seas and darkness to rescue hundreds of passengers from the ferry, as survivors told of a desperate rush to escape the flames and heavy rain.

Exhausted and cold from their ordeal, 49 passengers reached land on Monday in the Italian port of Bari, more than 24 hours after fire broke out on a car deck of the ferry going from the Greek port of Patras to Ancona in Italy.

The Greek and Italian prime ministers separately expressed their condolences to the victims and gratitude to the actions of the rescue workers.

IPassenger accounts emerging on Monday told of a panicked reaction as the fire spread, with passengers choking on the smoke and struggling to reach safety as they suffered both searing heat from the ship’s floors and driving rain outside.

Prosecutors in Bari were opening an investigation into how the fire started.

* Associated Press, with additional reporting from Associated Press

Published: December 29, 2014 04:00 AM

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