The vessel flying the Italian flag caught fire on Friday morning, with 12 people initially unaccounted for
Rescuers have found one of the 12 missing passengers from the Euroferry Olympia alive. They vessel caught fire in the early hours of Friday off the coast of Corfu, Greece. It was bound for Brindisi, Italy.
According to media reports, the man did not sustain any serious injuries. Greece’s minister for shipping and island policy, Giannis Plakiotakis, told Skai TV that the person is “possibly a Lithuanian citizen,” with the authorities “waiting for identification.” A number of other media outlets claim the man is a 21-year-old Belarusian truck driver.
According to media reports citing Greek officials, rescuers spotted the passenger on the ferry’s stern, with Greek TV channels running footage that apparently depicts the moment the rescued man climbed down a stepladder onto a tugboat. The trucker’s first words were reportedly: “tell me if I am alive.”
A total of 241 passengers and 51 crew were aboard the ferry when disaster struck.
A rescue operation is currently underway as 11 people are still unaccounted for. The Greek authorities believe most of the missing are truck drivers from Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, and Lithuania. According to some reports in the Greek media, they may have chosen to sleep inside their vehicles on the fateful night as the ship was crowded.
Some of the rescued passengers described their fiery ordeal to the media. One trucker told Reuters that “it was so unreal, it was a bit like the Titanic, but it was real.” Another driver said he feared he would not make it out alive.
The abandoned vessel has now been moored in place by a tug boat to prevent it from colliding with other ships passing nearby. The blaze, the temperature of which at one point reportedly exceeded 600C, has been largely extinguished, with small fires continuing to burn in the ferry’s guts as of Sunday.
The Greek authorities briefly detained the ship’s captain and two other crew members for questioning before releasing them.
The Euroferry Olympia’s operator insists the vessel underwent a completed safety check on Wednesday.
Once the fire is completely put out and the fate of all missing passengers is ascertained, rescuers plan to pump out the remaining oil from the vessel’s tanks so it doesn’t leak into the sea. The ferry will then be towed to a safe port where Greek and Italian investigators will set about examining the wreckage to find out what caused the fire.
Greek officials are describing the blaze as the worst incident at sea since 2014, when 22 people lost their lives as a result of a fire that broke out aboard the Italian-owned passenger ferry Norman Atlantic in the Adriatic Sea.
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