Italy ferry fire: Evacuation hampered by winds

Ferry on fire

Passengers have made desperate calls for a speedy rescue.

Ships and helicopters are taking part in a major rescue operation after an Italian ferry carrying 478 people caught fire around 40 nautical miles north-west of Corfu

(SOURCE)  The Norman Atlantic was travelling from Patras in Greece to Ancona in Italy.

Choppy seas and strong winds are hampering the rescue. Early reports that it was tilting have been denied.

There are no reports of casualties. Greek and Italian officials say 131 people have been rescued.

Most of those on board were Greek. Others came from Italy, Turkey, Albania, Germany and many other countries, including two Britons, officials said.

Italian media say the fire broke out on the ferry’s car deck early on Sunday morning.

“This is a complicated rescue mission… The visibility is poor and the weather conditions are difficult, but we are confident because there are a good number of ships in the area,” Greece Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said.

A life raft believed to be from the Italian-flagged Norman Atlantic after it caught fire in the Adriatic Sea.

Some of the passengers were said to have taken to life boats.

Italian and Albanian teams are also taking part in the rescue operation.

One of the passengers told Greek TV station Mega: “On the lower deck, where the lifeboats are, our shoes were starting to melt from the heat.”

The wife of one of the cooks told journalists she had had a call from her husband saying: “I cannot breathe, we are all going to burn like rats – God save us.”

Ferries are an important mode of transport between Greece’s hundreds of islands as well as neighbouring countries.

The Norman Atlantic (file pic)

The Norman Atlantic is one of many ferries which ply the Greece-Italy route.