Italian-flagged ferry with 466 people on board evacuated due to fire – Xinhua
ATHENS, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) — An evacuation operation was underway on Sunday in an Italian-flagged ferry with a total of 466 people on board which caught fire off the island of Corfu in western Greece.
About 30 passengers have already been safely transferred to another ship which was sailing in the area, according to the latest information released by the local Coast Guard.
Greek Coast Guard and other authorities were put on alert when the “Norman Atlantic” sent a distress signal after a fire started in one of the garages under yet unclear circumstances.
The ship was sailing from the port of Patras in western Greece to Ancona in Italy with 411 passengers, 55 members of crew and 222 vehicles on board.
After the first attempts of the crew to put the flames out failed, authorities decided to evacuate the people to ships which were sailing nearby at about 30 nautical miles off Corfu and the smaller island Othonoi.
According to a representative of the ship’s managing company ANEK Lines, all passengers gathered at the deck and with life-jackets on, the first group of women and children have already been transferred with rescue boats to the “Spirit of Piraeus”.
Three Greek Air Force helicopters are assisting in the evacuation operation, coordinated by the Greek Shipping Ministry in cooperation with the Italian Coast Guard, which has dispatched two helicopters.
Four Coast Guard vessels, a C-130 type aircraft, two container ships and a cruise ship were also taking part in the operation amidst strong winds.