Greece ferry fire: Eight Bulgarians among 11 missing on ship near Corfu

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A ferry is on fire at the Ionian Sea near the island of Corfu, Greece, on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022.

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One of the passengers reported missing on the Italian ferry on fire off the Greek island of Corfu has been found alive and rescued, the coast guard said on Sunday.

The young man of 21 who said he comes from Belarus was located at the back of the ship, AFP was told.

“Tell me I’m alive!” he shouted to rescuers, according to the newspaper Proto Thema.

Rescuers had previously detected his presence and were able to board the vessel to give him first aid and evacuate him via a ladder, the Greek authorities said.

The man is one of a dozen lorry drivers who were missing. Rescue teams are still looking for the other 11, eight of them said to be Bulgarian nationals.

They were still unaccounted for as smoke continued to billow from the ship on Sunday morning, more than 48 hours after the fire took hold.

An updated version of this story is available here.

Weather hampers rescue efforts

Aided by a helicopter, a frigate, six tug boats and a fire-fighting vessel, divers and fire crews homed in on the area on Saturday, hoping to find the lorry drivers who had not responded to calls.

But faced with the blaze fanned by the wind, as well as sporadic explosions and temperatures reaching 500 degrees on board, the Greek coast guard and fire service said rescuers were unable to board the ship.

The fire on the Euroferry Olympia, owned by the Italian company Grimaldi, broke out at 4:12 local time on Friday.

It was sailing through the Ionian Sea en route to the Italian port of Brindisi with 288 people on board.

The Greek coastguard initially said that 278 people had been rescued, including one person who was not on the official passenger list.

Two foreign passengers were later found and transported to hospital by helicopter.

A 42-year-old crew member was also injured and was transferred to nearby Corfu by a coastguard patrol boat “as a precaution”, the director of the Corfu hospital, Leonidas Roumbatis, confirmed.

According to ERT footage, the man was walking with difficulty, supported by firefighters when he arrived at the port in Corfu. He was suffering from breathing problems, according to initial media reports.

Earlier, Secretary of State for the Merchant Navy Kostas Katsafados had earlier told Greek radio station Skai that all passengers were safe and on rescue boats.

The Greek coastguards said in a statement on Friday morning that it dispatched four patrol boats, which were assisted by two tug boats, five other boats including one from the Italian Police and two private fishing vessels, as well as three helicopters.

The cause of the fire is not yet known and an investigation has begun.

A passenger said that they “were sleeping when we were alerted that there was a fire.”

“We got dressed in a second and went on deck where we were given life jackets,” the truck driver, who was contacted by phone by ERT, said.

On the bridge, “it was panic, there was a lot of smoke coming out of the garage, the atmosphere was suffocating,” he added.

The ferry’s captain immediately asked the passengers to leave the boat, while patrol boats, coastguard tugs and firefighters were dispatched from Corfu, a statement said.

Grimaldi also reported that the ship was also carrying 153 commercial vehicles (trucks and trailers), as well as 32 passenger vehicles.

“No fuel spill has been detected at sea, nor does the stability of the ship appear to be compromised,” it said, adding that “tugboats have been hired and are heading towards the Euroferry Olympia to give prompt support and manage the emergency.”

“The top management of the Grimaldi Group expresses its regret for the incident and will fully cooperate with the competent authorities to shed light on the incident,” it said.

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