Ferry fire: Eleven missing as hundreds rescued off Corfu

Eleven people are missing after a ferry burst into flames near the Greek island of Corfu on Friday, authorities say.

Rescue boats rushed to evacuate the 290 people on board the Euroferry Olympia, including two lorry drivers trapped inside the hold.

The ferry had left Igoumenitsa in Greece for the Italian port of Brindisi when a fire broke out on a car deck.

The captain told everyone to leave as the ferry was engulfed in flames and began billowing thick plumes of smoke.

The Greek coastguard said 239 passengers and 51 crew had been on the ferry, owned by Italian firm Grimaldi Lines. Most of the passengers were Italian nationals, according to Ionian islands governor Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, while the crew were both Greek and Italian.

Italian officials said 277 of those on board were brought to safety and 10 of them were being treated in hospital for breathing problems and minor injuries. Hours later, rescuers managed to reach two men who were stranded in the hold and airlift them off the ship.

Smoke billowing from the ferry
Greek and Italian boats rushed to put out the fire on the 183m (600ft) ferry

There was no word on the missing 11, but throughout the day officials have been trying to confirm how many people were able to leave the ferry when the order was given to abandon ship.

The ferry left the port of Igoumenitsa on Greece’s western coast at about 01:50 (23:50 GMT on Thursday). The fire was thought to have started on one of the car decks in the hold. The crew initially tried to put it out before the captain gave the order to abandon ship at around 04:20.

“Within an hour we had left the ship, we were saved by the crew,” one passenger told Greek TV.

A passenger from Italian-flagged Euroferry Olympia disembarks from a Greek coast guard vessel at the port of Corfu
Greek officials said everyone on board was successfully evacuated from the ferry

Both passengers and crew boarded lifeboats near the island of Ereikousa before being picked up by ships in the area. A passing Italian customs ship was first on the scene.

Customs police said their patrol vessel Monte Sperone had rescued 243 of those on board.

The fire was still burning on Friday evening, but a specialised Greek rescue team was able to board the vessel more than 12 hours after the fire broke out.

One passenger told Greek media that some people had been sleeping in their vehicles when the alarm was raised.

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