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The ferry had departed from the port of Patras at the Peloponnese pen
The ferry had departed from the port of Patras at the Peloponnese penin Neuigkeiten 14.01.2019 07:21
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by Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS Blake Comeau Jersey , Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- More than 150 people have been rescued off a burning Italian- flagged ferry which went adrift at the Ionian Sea on Sunday after a fire broke out in the garage, as a major international evacuation operation was continuing despite darkness and bad weather conditions, according to the latest from Greek authorities.
A person has died during the ongoing crisis with the Italian- flagged ferry which has caught fire off the island of Corfu, Greek Coast Guard spokesman Nikos Lagadianos told media.
The Greek official confirmed that Italian authorities who were in charge of an international rescue operation which was conducted amidst rough seas have notified the Greek side that an individual lost his life. The victim's nationality was not released, neither the circumstances of his death.
A total of 478 people -- 422 passengers and a 56 member crew -- were on board the "Norman Atlantic" when the fire broke out under still unclear circumstances at the ship's garage before spreading to other parts, according to the Greek Coast Guard and a statement released by the Greek shipping firm ANEK Lines which had leased it from an Italian company.
Twelve hours after the ship sent out a distress signal while sailing 30 nautical miles off the Greek island of Corfu in international waters, dozens of passengers have been airlifted to safety by helicopters from Greece and Italy and by life boats which have reached some of the dozen of vessels participating in the rescue operation, Nikos Lagadianos, the Greek Coast Guard's spokesman told media at Piraeus port.
Lagadianos cited information by the Italian authorities which were coordinating the efforts. He added that tug boats assisting in efforts to extinguish the fire seemed to have managed to put it under control by sunset.
According to Greek Coast Guard sources, officials were examining the prospect of towing the ferry towards Albania as over the past few hours it was drifting towards the Albanian shores south of the Strait of Otranto.
Authorities at Corfu, Patras and other cities in western Greece were just in case put in a state of readiness to offer first aid and shelter to passengers.
"We just hope that this nightmare will end soon," Deputy Governor of Corfu Nikoletta Pandi told local media.
Fotis Tsantakides, one of the first Greek passengers who was transferred to the cruise ship Europa, told Greek television channel Mega on Sunday afternoon that the fire seemed to be spreading from three different fronts at one point and that there were problems in the distribution of life jackets.
Greek SKAI television channel citing a document issued on December 19 by the Port Authority of Patras reported that shortages in safety measures had been noted.
Greek journalist Angelos Moschovas who happened to be among passengers of the Europa cruise ship which received some of the first evacuees, described children in a state of shock who were worrying about their parents who were left behind.
"We are outside in the freezing cold, some of the people are coughing due to the heavy smoke," Greek passenger Yorgos Styliaras had told his relatives during a short telephone contact earlier.
The majority of people on board were Greek nationals, according to the Greek Shipping Ministry (234 passengers and 34 crew members).
There was no official information on the nationalities of other passengers on board from the Greek side rather than that the captain of the "Norman Atlantic" and the rest of the crew members were Italians.
The ferry had departed from the port of Patras at the Peloponnese peninsula and was en route to Ancona, Italy via the port of Igoumenitsa in western Greece.
Gale- force winds of up to nine on the Beaufort scale were blowing in the area while heavy rainfall was continuing throughout the day.
"We have confidence in the rescuers," Anna Michelle Assimakopoulou, spokesperson of the Greek conservative ruling New Democracy party told Greek media, after finding out that some of her relatives were on board the blazing ferry.
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