Survivor found in burning ferry off Greek island; 11 missing

ATHENS – A survivor was rescued from the stern of a still burning passenger ferry on Sunday morning, the Greek coast guard said. 11 people are still missing.

A Coast Guard spokesman told The Associated Press that the man, a Belarusian, was found on the left rear side of the Euroferry Olympia in good condition.

The Italian-owned ferry, which was carrying more than 290 passengers and crew, as well as 153 trucks and 32 cars, caught fire on Friday, three hours after leaving Greece’s northwestern port of Igoumenitsa , on the mainland, to Brindisi, Italy. The Greek Coast Guard and other boats evacuated around 280 people to the neighboring island of Corfu. One of the two passengers rescued on Saturday evening was not listed on the ship’s manifest and is believed to be a migrant.

The vessel is being slowly towed to the port of Kassiopi in northeast Corfu by three tugs, authorities said. Firefighters were still battling the blaze which, although confined to certain spaces, flares up from time to time, and thick smoke hangs over the ship.

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Extreme temperatures in parts of the ship prevented rescuers, made up of the Greek Fire Department’s Disaster Management Unit and a team of private operator rescuers, from searching the entire ship. The ferry is lolling slightly from the tons of water pouring on it, but authorities say it is in no danger of capsizing.

A Greek prosecutor on the island of Corfu has ordered an investigation into the cause of the fire. The Italian company that operates the ferry said the fire started in a slipway where vehicles were parked.

The ship’s captain and two engineers were arrested on Friday but released the same day, authorities said.

The passengers described a dramatic rescue situation.

“We have heard the alarm. We thought it was some kind of exercise. But we saw through the portholes that people were running,” truck driver Karaolanidis told the AP on Saturday. Fortunately, they (the crew) acted quickly.

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Officials said those rescued included citizens of Albania, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Italy and Lithuania.

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Petros Giannakouris and Lefteris Pitarakis contributed reporting from Corfu.

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