11 missing after Greece ferry fire


Athens, Feb 18: Eleven people were missing and two remained trapped after an Italian-flagged ferry caught fire overnight on the Ionian Sea, Greek officials said as emergency crews raced against the clock to put out the blaze and locate survivors before dark.

Divers were being brought in to widen the search for those missing, the Greek coastguard said, after 278 people had been rescued and taken to the island of Corfu following the blaze on the Euroferry Olympia en route from Greece to Italy.

The fire was still burning on Friday afternoon hours after it first broke out off the island of Ereikousa between Greece and Albania.

Officials said the cause remained unknown.

Among the rescued, 10 were taken to hospital with breathing difficulties and minor injuries, public television ERT said.

But several were still unaccounted for on Friday afternoon.

“An operation to locate 11 missing passengers is in progress,” the Greek coastguard said in a statement.

Nine of those missing are from Bulgaria.

A specialised Greek rescue team was able to board the vessel over 12 hours after the fire broke out.

According to ferry owners Grimaldi Lines, five missing passengers had been “traced on board” and evacuation efforts were underway.

But the Greek coastguard said it was aware of only two passengers on board, identified by a Bulgarian freight company as a Bulgarian and a Turkish truck driver who were trying to make their way to the deck.

Grimaldi Lines said the vessel was officially carrying 239 passengers and 51 crew as well as 153 trucks and trailers and 32 passenger vehicles.