Survivor and body found on burning ferry off Greek island
Greek emergency workers rescued a Belarussian truck driver Sunday from a burning ferry off the island of Corfu and found the body of another man as they combed the wreckage for missing passengers. The discoveries left 10 people still unaccounted for.
The truck driver, in his 20s, was able to make his way up to the left rear deck on his own, and told rescue workers he heard other voices below. There were no further details identifying the victim, the first body recovered from the ship.
“The fact that this man succeeded, despite adverse conditions, to exit into the deck and alert the coast guard … gives us hope that there may be other (survivors),” coast guard spokesman Nikos Alexiou told state broadcaster ERT.
The Italian-owned Euroferry Olympia, which was carrying more than 290 passengers and crew as well as 153 trucks and 32 cars, caught fire Friday, three hours after it left the northwestern Greek port of Igoumenitsa bound for the Italian city of Brindisi. The Greek coast guard and other boats evacuated about 280 people to the nearby island of Corfu.
The ferry has been towed to the port of Kassiopi, in northeastern Corfu. Firefighters were still battling the blaze in spots Sunday and a thick smoke still blanketed the ship.
Alexiou said his understanding was that the truck driver hadn’t heard any voices just before making his way onto the deck but added “the situation is evolving.” The survivor was taken to a hospital for a medical exam.
The extreme temperatures in some parts of the ship have impeded the Greek fire service’s Disaster Management Unit and a team of private rescuers from searching the whole ship. The ferry is slightly listing from the tons of water poured into it to douse the fire but authorities say it’s not in danger of capsizing.
Two passengers were rescued Saturday. One wasn’t on the ship’s manifest and was presumably a migrant. The other person, a 65-year-old Bulgarian truck driver, had respiratory problems and is on a ventilator in a Corfu hospital’s intensive care unit.
A Greek prosecutor on Corfu has ordered an investigation into the cause of the fire. The Italy-based company that operates the ferry said the fire started in a hold where vehicles were parked.
The ship’s captain and two engineers were arrested Friday but were released the same day, authorities said.
Passengers described the initial evacuation as dramatic.
“We heard the alarm. We thought it was some kind of drill. But we saw through the portholes that people were running,” truck driver Dimitris Karaolanidis told The Associated Press. “You can’t think something at the time (other than) your family … When I hit the deck, I saw smoke and children. Fortunately, they (the crew) acted quickly.”
Petros Giannakouris and Lefteris Pitarakis contributed to this report from Corfu.