Greek Ferry Fire Leaves 10 People Dead; All Survivors Accounted for

( [email protected] ) Dec 29, 2014 07:25 PM EST
Greek Ferry Disaster
In this photo taken from a nearby ship, vessels try to extinguish the fire at the Italian-flagged Norman Atlantic after it caught fire in the Adriatic Sea, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014. Photo: AP

The Italian coast guard said that a Greek ferry caught fire on Sunday, which left 10 people dead and stranded 427 survivors, including 56 crew members. However, they have all been accounted for and rescued by authorities.

According to ABC News, the ship, which goes from Greece to Italy, had an original manifest of 478 passengers and crew. However, Andrea Rosa and Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press reported that 80 of the people rescued were not included on the list.

"We cannot say how many people may be missing," Maurizio Lupi, Italy's transport minister, said.

The Associated Press noted that according to Italian authorities, two boats remained in the Adriatic Sea to continue searching for people who may still be missing. A priority has been placed to compare the original passenger list with the number of survivors rescued and dead people on board.

Italian officials indicated that others may have fallen into the water when the lifeboats were initially deployed. According to the Associated Press, Italian Premier Matteo Renzi hinted that the ferry could have been carrying a number of illegal migrants trying to reach Italy.

"The problem wasn't just that the ferry carried people not officially declared," Rosa and Winfield wrote. "It remained unclear how many people on the original manifest never actually boarded the ill-fated ferry, which caught flames early Sunday en route from the Greek port of Patras to the Italian port of Ancona."

According to Doug Stanlin of USA Today, the survivors were plucked from the vessel, named the Norman Atlantic, in an arduous rescue operation hampered by stormy seas and high winds. The cause of the disaster happened before dawn on Sunday, when a fire broke out on a car deck of the Italian-flagged ship.

"Notwithstanding the weather and the darkness, which is another factor, we persisted throughout the entire night," Italian coast guard Admiral Giovanni Pettorino said in regards to the rescue operation.

USA Today reported that the rescue operation required helicopters, which faced winds over 40 knots (46 mph) throughout the night, to complete 34 sorties to rescue passengers. Pettorino said that those who remained on board were given thermal blankets and told to find places protected from the elements "even if the conditions remain very difficult."

The Associated Press noted that of the 10 dead, four bodies were recovered from the sea on Monday, and one Greek man died Sunday after he tried to get into a lifeboat with his wife, who survived. While Lupi said that although the remaining victims were found on Monday, their circumstances and events leading to their deaths remained unknown.

The Italian Coast Guard told USA Today that the ship's captain, Argilio Giacomazzi, and four Italian sailors were the last people on board as the rescue team tried to hook the ferry to a tug boat. Italian Navy Adm. Giuseppe De Giorgi praised the ferry captain for his efforts in staying on the boat throughout the evacuation process.

"As an old seaman, I offer my deferential salute to the ship captain for having done his job with great dignity and competence," De Giorgi said. "He was last off, as a captain should be."

However, survivors of the doomed ferry said that their situation was chaotic, noting that the mostly Italian crew provided virtually no directions. The Associated Press reported that some people only got out of their cabins after they could not breathe or when other passengers notified them of the scene.

"The fire was basically cooking everybody's feet," British show-jumper Nick Channing-Williams said. "People just panicked. When the flames are licking up the side of the boat and there's no sign of help ... you do feel somewhat helpless."

ABC News reported that a formal criminal investigation has been launched into the accident.

Tags : Greek ferry, Greek ferry fire, Italy, Greece, Adriatic Sea, Italian Coast Guard, Norman Atlantic, ferry rescue operation, Greek ferry tragedy