Dead Body Is Pulled From Burning Ferry Off Greece, With 10 Still Missing
ATHENS — Rescuers said on Sunday that at least one person had been found dead on a ferry that caught fire off the Greek island of Corfu on Friday, the first person known to have been killed in the blaze, though 10 others remain missing.
Hundreds have already been taken safely off the stricken ship, the Italian-owned Euroferry Olympia, which had been carrying more than 290 passengers and crew members when the fire broke out a few hours after it left the northwestern Greek port of Igoumenitsa, bound for Brindisi, Italy. There were also 153 trucks and 32 cars aboard.
The dead man was found when rescue workers opened the doors to a truck being carried on the ferry. “He had burns over a large part of his body,” said Vassilis Vathrakoyiannis, a spokesman for the Greek fire service. The victim’s identity was not immediately released.
Earlier Sunday, a 21-year-old truck driver from Belarus became the latest passenger to be rescued from the ferry, and search operations were continuing for the other 10 people still unaccounted for, said, Nikolaos Alexiou, a spokesman for the Greek Coast Guard.
Greek television showed the rescued Belarusian climbing off the ferry and onto a Coast Guard vessel. He had spent 53 hours in the stern of the crippled ship, and burn marks were visible on his legs as he disembarked in Corfu, nodding when reporters shouted to ask if he felt well.
Most of those aboard the ferry were rescued by the Greek Coast Guard, aided by the Italian authorities, in the first few hours after the fire broke out, with two airlifted off the top deck by helicopter in an operation posted on Greek news websites.
The blaze was still alight and complicating rescue efforts on Sunday, Mr. Alexiou of the Coast Guard said.
“It’s a very difficult operation as the fire is still burning on the ship,” he noted. “There’s a lot of smoke, it’s dark and the temperatures are extremely high.” He added that the 21-year-old Belarusian had encountered some luck in that he had been trapped in the lowest garage, below sea level, where temperatures were cooler.
The Euroferry Olympia was secured by tow boats off the northwestern coast of Corfu, and the emergency services were using water cannons to try to extinguish the fire, Mr. Alexiou said.
The cause of the blaze was still unclear on Sunday. The captain and two engineers of the ship, owned by the Italian company Grimaldi Lines, were briefly detained for questioning on Saturday as an investigation got underway.
Survivors described vivid scenes as the fire broke out in the predawn darkness on Friday. Οne member of the crew, who was saved by a fishing boat that was helping in the rescue effort on Friday, said that he had never experienced anything like it in his 26 years working on ships. “We heard one explosion after another as we ran through the corridors to save ourselves,” the crew member, Ilias Oikonomopoulos, told a Greek news website.
“There were six screaming babies on the ship,” he added. “We didn’t know what to do.”
A passenger who said that he was a truck driver from Bulgaria told Greek television that he had been given a life jacket and had jumped into the sea before clambering onto one of the rescue boats.
“I had to get off,” he said. “It was chaos.”