Hundreds of passengers stranded in the Adriatic Sea were rescued early Monday morning from a passenger ferry that caught fire off the northwestern coast of Greece. Seven fatalities have been reported on the ferry, named the Norman Atlantic, which was en route to an Italian port from Greece. The ship was carrying 422 people when the fire broke out, prompting a harrowing, hours-long rescue operation.
Here’s more on the evacuation from CNN:
In the first three hours of the fire, around 150 people were able to escape via the vessel’s lifeboats. But when the ferry lost power, the electronic arms were unable to function, leaving the rest of the boats dangling uselessly by its side. Rescue efforts were hampered by strong winds, choppy seas and thick smoke, which prevented other boats from getting close enough to the vessel to get people off. After waiting for hours in rough conditions, one Greek man told Italian state broadcaster RAI TV that passengers were “dying of cold and suffocating from the smoke,” and that their feet were “burning” from the heat of the flames. Helicopters with night vision equipment worked through the night to pull passengers off the ferry, one by one… Many passengers were unable to reach the lower decks because of the heat, and the water below was so cold that jumping clear of the ferry was not an option.
Italian media reported that the fire started in the car deck portion of the ferry, which was operated by a Greek company and sailing under an Italian flag.