Passenger found alive on ferry ablaze off Greece

February 21, 2022 People's Journal 108 views

Corfu , AFP — A passenger was on Sunday found alive on a ferry that has been ablaze off Greece for three days, coastguards said, with 11 truck drivers still missing.

Rescuers spotted the man on the stern of the stricken vessel as it was being towed to port.

“Tell me I’m alive,” the 21-year-old truck driver who said he was from Belarus, told rescuers, according to the Proto Thema news website.

Clad in tan shorts and a black t-shirt, he climbed down a ladder into a rescue boat, according to images from the iefimerida news website.

The fire broke out on the Italian-flagged Euroferry Olympia late on Thursday as it sailed from Igoumenitsa in Greece to Brindisi in Italy, with nearly 300 people aboard.

Following the blaze, criticism had mounted over conditions aboard the vessel, which was reported to be carrying fuel and “corrosive dangerous goods.”

Rescuers managed to save 280 passengers on Friday, evacuating them to Corfu, but 12 lorry drivers remained missing.

The man rescued on Sunday was one of those drivers, the coastguards said.

Authorities initially gave the missing as seven from Bulgaria, three from Greece, one from Turkey and one from Lithuania.

On Sunday, they said there was an error and the missing Lithuanian was actually the man saved, who was from Belarus.

The drivers are believed to have been asleep inside their lorries when the blaze broke out.

On Sunday the vessel was being towed toward the Kassiopi inlet near Corfu.

Olympia was carrying an estimated 800 cubic metres of fuel and 23 tons of “corrosive dangerous goods”, according to Italy’s environment ministry which said on Saturday that a “possible spill” was detected after a fly-over by an Italian coastguard aircraft.

The vessel was officially carrying 239 passengers and 51 crew, as well as 153 trucks and trailers and 32 passenger vehicles, the Grimaldi company has said.

But the coastguard has said two of the 280 people rescued were Afghans not on the manifest, sparking fears that more undocumented passengers could also be missing.

The missing truckers reportedly slept in their vehicles because cabins on the vessel were overcrowded.

Ilias Gerontidakis, the son of a missing Greek trucker, told the Proto Thema online newspaper the Olympia “miserable from every point of view”.

“It had bed bugs, it was dirty, it had no security systems,” he said as he waited at the port for news.

“It had 150 lorries inside. Normally it should have 70 to 75 cabins, but it only has 50. They force us to sleep four people in a cabin”, he said.

“My father, from what I was told, slept in the truck.”

The last shipboard fire in the Adriatic occurred in December 2014 on the Italian ferry Norman Atlantic. Thirteen people died in that blaze.

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