Italian Ferry Fire Under Control, Rescue Effort Continues

By Dan Liefgreen and | December 29, 2014

Italian rescue teams evacuated 340 passengers amid rough seas and high winds from an Italian ferry after a fire broke out yesterday during a route off the Greek island of Corfu.

An operation led by Italy put out the fire and docked a tugboat to the Norman Atlantic ferry yesterday, helping to stabilize the vessel that departed from the Greek port of Patras en route to Ancona, Italy, with 422 passengers and 56 crew members on board. The Italian Navy showed images of helicopters taking off for rescue missions and gave the latest update on rescued passangers on its Twitter account.

Greek Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said in a press conference last night that one person died while trying to flee the ferry, while two more were injured. The Italian Coast Guard said most of the rescued passengers were transferred to cargo ships in the area and that others were taken to Italy.

The fire was partly contained and while the ferry had listed slightly, it’s not in danger of sinking, a Greek shipping ministry spokesman, who asked not to be named, said by phone. Ports in Albania have been put on alert should the vessel be towed to that country, Italian news agencies reported.

The Italian Navy and Coast Guard are coordinating the rescue effort in the strait between Italy and Albania. The blaze broke out about 4 a.m. in the Italian-flagged ferry’s car-parking area. Italian television stations showed smoke billowing from the vessel with many passengers standing on the deck, according to news RAINews24.

Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti thanked the coast guard, navy, and air force for its joint rescue effort in a Twitter posting and said efforts to evacuate remaining passangers were continuing.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was in contact with his Italian counterpart, Matteo Renzi, the latter said in a Twitter posting yesterday.

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