A massive fire took hold on the Euroferry OIympia heading from Greece to Italy leading to a massive rescue mission with reports that there are up to 11 people missing and three people trapped on board
Image: Italian Coast Guard Handout/ANSA via ZUMA Press/REX/Shutterstock)
A huge blaze on a ferry sailing from Greece to Italy has led to a major rescue operation to get passengers off the stricken vessel.
There are reports that as many as 11 people are still missing while three people are trapped on board.
The fire took hold in the early hours of Friday morning with rescue boats and other ships in the area helping to get people to safety, said authorities.
A total of 240 passengers and 51 crew were on board the Italian-flagged Euroferry Olympia when the fire broke out.
Rescue vessels took most to the island of Corfu where ambulances were waiting, according to Reuters, with nine missing and three trapped.
CNN, meanwhile, are reporting that 11 people are missing.
“It was so unreal, it was a bit like the Titanic but it was real,” said David Waller, a 58-year-old truck driver who was rescued and was staying at a hotel on Corfu.
The Greek fire brigade said two men trapped in the ship’s garage had been rescued and lifted by helicopter, one of whom was not on the official list of missing people. Firefighters were trying to reach at least another three trapped.
Grimaldi Lines, the owner of the vessel, said earlier that tugboats were sailing to the area to help recover the ship.
Aerial footage released by the coastguard showed rows of burnt trucks on the blackened deck after flames swept through the 183-metre ferry that had been making a nine-hour journey through the night.
“The worst thing is the cars in the garage are glued next to each other, there is no escape route,” one Greek truck driver, who did not give his name, said after arriving on Corfu.
The cause of the blaze was still being investigated, Greek authorities said.
At least 10 people have been taken to a Corfu hospital, most with breathing problems, a Greek health ministry official told state television.
Earlier on Friday, passengers huddled in yellow blankets on an Italian rescue vessel as huge plumes of smoke poured out of the ferry, one video showed. The words “May Day” were repeatedly blasting from the speakers, in the footage uploaded on Greek news website Proto Thema.
The ferry sailed from Igoumenitsa, the largest port in western Greece, and was headed to the Italian port of Brindisi. It carried 153 vehicles, many of them trucks, Grimaldi Lines said.
The fire broke out when the ship was near Corfu in the Ionian Sea. Hours after the alarm was raised, the vessel was still ablaze, drifting in Albanian waters, Grimaldi Lines said, adding that there were no fuel spills or environmental damage.
GUARDA COSTIERA HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
“At around 3.30-4.00 am I smelled smoke,” Rumen Metodiev, a Bulgarian truck driver, told Bulgaria’s BNT channel.
“The trucks and the documents, everything burned. There was no chance to put out the fire.”
Bulgaria’s foreign ministry said 127 of its citizens were on board.
Grimaldi Lines spokesman Paul Kyprianou told Reuters that there were indications the fire started in one of its holds.
The company was making every effort to help the passengers – most of them from Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey – get home, he said.
“The flames were incredibly high, we were a few miles away from the ferry when it happened,” said Colonello Felice Lodovico Simone Cicchetti from Italy’s financial police, who took part in the rescue operation.
“The fire was so big and almost that in a matter of five minutes it became unmanageable for the people aboard.”