Passenger Ferry on Fire off Greece, Evacuation Underway

Society » INCIDENTS | December 28, 2014, Sunday // 11:53
Bulgaria: Passenger Ferry on Fire off Greece, Evacuation Underway A handout frame grab footage provided by Italian State Broadcaster RaiNews24 shows the ferry Norman Atlantic which caught fire in the Adriatic Sea on 28 December 2014 while sailing from Greece to Italy. Photo EPA/BGNES

Italian-flagged ferry Norman Atlantic carrying hundreds of passengers was on fire in the Adriatic Sea, the CNN reported, quoting Greek Merchant Marine Ministry officials.

At least 150 passengers have been been taken off the ferry by the Greek authorities but high winds, rough seas and poor visibility are hampering rescue efforts.

The ship was not in immediate danger of sinking and there have been no reports of injuries so far, according to the Greek authorities.

Officials said the ferry was sailing from Patras in Greece to Ancona in Italy when it caught fire just before 6am local time (0400 GMT) about 40 miles north of Corfu, close to the Albanian city of Vlora.

Several ships and planes have gone to the rescue of the ferry, which was carrying 222 vehicles, and 478 passengers and crew. The ship sent a distress signal after a fire started in the car deck, according to Greek coast guard officials.

"We are in constant contact with Italian authorities and the Greek armed forces,” Greece’s Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said. ”We are committed to rescuing everyone on the ship, and are trying to ensure that nobody will be left unaided."

According to Varvitsiotis, of the passengers on board, 268 were Greek. There was no immediate information on the nationality of other passengers.

A fire-fighting vessel was trying to approach the burning ferry. A man on board told Greek TV by phone strong winds were preventing rescuers from getting close.

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Tags: Patras, ferry, fire, rescue operation, Norman Atlantic, greece, Italy, Corfu, Ancona
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