Home LATEST NEWS Greece: an Italian ferry still on fire, 12 drivers missing

Greece: an Italian ferry still on fire, 12 drivers missing

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The boat of the Italian company Grimaldi, en route to Brindisi in Italy, caught fire at dawn on Friday, two hours after leaving the Greek port of Igoumenitsa, with 290 people, including 51 crew members, registered at edge.

The inferno fanned by the wind, the sporadic explosions and the infernal temperature rising to more than 500 degrees prevent rescuers from intervening on board the ship, according to the firefighters and the Greek coast guard.

Aided by a helicopter, a frigate and a firefighting vessel, divers and firefighters crisscross the disaster area, hoping to find the missing.

Tugboats managed to bring the ship closer to the coast, about ten kilometers north of Corfu, according to public television ERT. At the start of the evening, Italy announced that its coastguards, already in the area with pollution control resources, had spotted a possible tablecloth near the boat on fire, left with 800 m3 of fuel oil and 23 tons of corrosive hazardous products.

In addition to 278 registered people, two illegal Afghan migrants were also rescued, raising fears of more missing, migrants often boarding illegally on ferries linking Greece to Italy.

The investigation by the Greek Maritime Accident Service has only just begun. But the fire could have started from a truck parked in the holds, according to several concordant declarations.

However, several truck drivers reported to ERT on Saturday that they preferred to sleep in their truck than in the crowded cabins of the ferries.

The 12 missing are all truckers, seven from Bulgaria, three from Greece, one from Lithuania and one from Turkey, the Greek coast guard told AFP.

Their families joined Corfu on Saturday, supervised by a psychologist.

From what I know, my father slept in the truck. The boat was in a pitiful state in every waysaid Ilias Gerontidakis, the son of a missing Greek.

With 50 cabins for 150 trucks, there were not enough cabins […] we had to sleep four per cabin and there were bed bugs, it was dirty, no security systemreported this man, himself a driver, on the website of the Proto Thema newspaper.

Vassilis Vergis also thinks that his missing cousin stayed in the truckbecause he had fear of cabins and coronavirus.

According to the daily Kathimerini, the Greek truckers’ union denounced in June 2017 the malfunction of the air conditioning in the cabins of the Euroferry Olympia and the Euroferry Egnazia, another Grimaldi ship.

In a letter to the Greek Ministry of Merchant Marine, quoted by the newspaper, the union also criticizes the lack of cabins and the poor ventilation of the holds reserved for vehicles.

In accordance with international legislation, the ferry, built in 1995, had undergone a control visit which ended in a positive result on February 16, said the Grimaldi group.

Friday evening, two passengers, prisoners in the vehicle hold, were able to be evacuated after more than ten hours in thick smoke, before being hospitalized, according to the coast guard.

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One of the two, a Bulgarian, presents very low oxygen saturation and was intubatedsaid Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Velislava Petrova on Saturday morning.

The specialized team that had been able to board could not remain in the burning ship.

The testimony of survivors

Hosted in a hotel in Corfu, a Turkish survivor, Fahri Ozgen, is in despair: some of our friends are still missing, we don’t know where they are.

A man and a woman.

The twelve reported missing are all truckers, seven from Bulgaria, three from Greece, one from Lithuania and one from Turkey.

Photo: AP/Stamatis Katopodis

The day before, on the deck of the ship, some 250 people were screaming, screaming, some jumped overboard to escape the threatening fire they felt under their feethe told AFP.

Some find themselves with nothing in Corfu. We lost our money, our passports, all our administrative documents, I don’t even have shoes on my feet anymorelaments to AFP a Turkish driver, Ali Duran.

Once the fire is out, the boat must be towed in safe place to pump fuel and water, in order to avoid any maritime pollution, declared the Greek Minister of Merchant Marine Giannis Plakiotakis, Saturday on Skaï TV.

The previous fire on a ferry in this part of the Mediterranean took place in December 2014 on the Norman Atlantic, an Italian ship, which left Patras (Greece) for Ancona (Italy). It had killed 13 people, including nine passengers.

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