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Survivor Found in Burning Ferry off Greek Island; 11 Missing

February 20, 2022

ATHENS — A survivor has been rescued Sunday morning from the stern of a still burning passenger ferry, Greece’s coast guard said. There are 11 people still missing.

A coast guard spokesman told The Associated Press the man, a Belarussian, was found on the left rear side of the Euroferry Olympia in apparently good condition.

The Italian-owned ferry, which was carrying more than 290 passengers and crew, as well as 153 trucks and 32 cars, caught fire on Friday, three hours after it left the northwestern Greek port of Igoumenitsa, on the mainland, bound for Brindisi, Italy. The Greek coast guard and other boats evacuated about 280 people to the nearby island of Corfu. One of two passengers rescued late Saturday wasn’t on the ship’s manifest and is, presumably, a migrant.

Smoke rises from the Italy-flagged Euroferry Olympia as it burns for a third day at the Ionian Sea, as it seen from Albania’s southwestern Saranda town, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Franc Zhurda)

The ship is being slowly towed to the port of Kassiopi, in northeastern Corfu, by three tugboats, authorities said. Firefighters were still battling the blaze, which, although confined in certain spaces, reignites from time to time, and thick smoke is hanging over the ship.

The extreme temperatures in some parts of the ship have impeded the rescuers, made up of the Greek fire service’s Disaster Management Unit and a team of rescuers from private operators, from searching the whole ship. The ferry is slightly listing from the tons of water poured into it, but authorities say it’s not in danger of capsizing.

A Greek prosecutor on the island of Corfu has ordered an investigation into the cause of the fire. The Italy-based company that operates the ferry said the fire started in a hold where vehicles were parked.

Smoke rises from the Italian-flagged Euroferry Olympia, which is on fire for third day, in the Ionian sea near the Greek island of Corfu, on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The ship’s captain and two engineers were arrested Friday, but were released the same day, authorities said.

Passengers described a dramatic rescue situation.

“We heard the alarm. We thought it was some kind of drill. But we saw through the portholes that people were running,” truck driver Karaolanidis told the AP Saturday. “You can’t think something at the time (other than) your family … When I hit the deck, I saw smoke and children. Fortunately, they (the crew) acted quickly.”

Officials said the people rescued included citizens of Albania, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Italy, and Lithuania.

 

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