Greece continues search for 12 people on burning ferry


Rescue teams were working this Saturday more than 50 kilometers north of Corfu to locate 12 passengers missing for 24 hours in the fire, still active, on a ferry from the Italian company Grimaldi.

The ship caught fire early Friday on its way to Brindisi, Italy, two hours after leaving the Greek port of Igumenitsa, with at least 290 people on board.

There is still an ongoing investigation but the fire could have started in a truck parked in the warehouse.

The port on the Greek island of Corfu was quiet on Saturday morning, AFP journalists at the scene reported.

The 280 people rescued the day before spent the night in a hotel or hospital, with minor injuries or breathing difficulties.

Dozens of rescuers, divers and firefighters continued to fight against the flames and thick smoke coming from the “Euroferry Olympia”, near the islet of Erikusa, between Greece and Albania.

With the help of a helicopter, a frigate, six tugboats and a firefighting boat, rescuers were still trying to find 12 truckers who are still missing, according to Greek firefighters.

“Some of our friends are still missing, we don’t know where they are,” said a Turkish survivor, Fahri Ozgen, now holed up in a Corfu hotel.

He told AFP how the day before, on the deck of the ship, some “250 people shouted, shouted and some jumped into the sea” to escape the fire they felt “under their feet.”

Among the missing are seven Bulgarians, three Greeks, one Lithuanian and one Turk, Greek coastguards told AFP.

Two passengers, a Bulgarian and an Afghan, who were trapped in the garage, were evacuated from the burning ship on Friday, after more than 10 hours in thick smoke, and were later hospitalized, the same source said.

The Bulgarian citizen has “very low oxygen saturation and has been intubated,” Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Velislava Petrova told a news conference on Saturday.

But the specialized equipment that had been able to board the ferry on Friday could not stay because of the flames and the heat.

Several truckers told Greek television ERT on Saturday that they preferred to sleep in their trucks rather than in the crowded cabins of the ferries.

The Greek truck drivers’ union already denounced in June 2017 the malfunction of the air conditioning in the cabins of the “Euroferry Olympia” and the “Euroferry Egnazia”, ​​two ships of the Grimaldi company, according to the daily Kathimerini.

In a letter to the Greek Merchant Marine Ministry, quoted by the newspaper, the union also criticized the poor ventilation of the vehicle holds.

The ferry, put into service in 1995, was subjected to a control visit in accordance with international legislation that “gave a positive result” on February 16 in Igumenitsa, the Grimaldi group said in a statement.

Two of the survivors, both Afghans, were not on the passenger list, the coast guard told AFP. His presence raises fears that there are other illegal immigrants on the burning ferry.

Migrants are often smuggled on ferries from Greece to Italy.