Hundreds
of people were rescued from a ferry that caught fire between Greece and Italy
in the early hours of Friday, the Greek coastguard said.

A video
uploaded on Greek news website Proto Thema showed the 183-metre (600 foot)
ferry engulfed in flames and huge plumes of smoke. “May Day” was blasting from
speakers.

The
coastguard said 239 passengers and 51 crew members were on board the
Italian-flagged Euroferry Olympia and most of them had boarded rescue vessels
transferring them to the port of the island of Corfu, authorities said.

There
were no immediate reports of deaths or severe injuries. One person with
breathing problems had been taken to the hospital, according to the Athens News
Agency.

The ferry
had sailed from Igoumenitsa, the largest port in western Greece, and was headed
to the Italian port of Brindisi, about nine hours away.

The fire,
the cause of which was not immediately known, broke out near the island of
Corfu in the Ionian Sea.

“We were
woken up around 4:20 a.m. Within an hour we had left the ship… We were saved
by the crew, which acted fast,” one of the passengers told Skai TV via
telephone.

The ferry
is part of the fleet of group Grimaldi Lines and has a capacity of up to 560
passengers, according to the company’s website.

Grimaldi
Lines spokesman Paul Kyprianou told Reuters that the cause of the fire was
still under investigation but there were indications it started from the ship’s
hold.

“Damage
is severe because despite the efforts the crew was unable to extinguish the
fire,” he said.

At least
three coastguard vessels and one Italian financial police vessel were involved
in the rescue operation.

Ship
tracking data provided by Refinitiv Eikon showed the Euroferry Olympia
performing a U-turn northwest of the North Corfu channel.

In 2014,
10 people were killed when a car ferry carrying 466 passengers and crew caught
fire while sailing from Greece to Italy.  

 

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2022-02-18

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