Berliner Tageblatt - Greece resumes search for ferry fire survivors

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Greece resumes search for ferry fire survivors
Greece resumes search for ferry fire survivors / Photo: ©

Greece resumes search for ferry fire survivors

Greek rescuers on Monday resumed the search for 10 people still missing from a ferry fire that has killed at least one truck driver, with three survivors still in hospital.

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Television footage showed smoke still billowing from the Italian-flagged Euroferry Olympia, more than three days after a fire ripped through the vessel as it sailed from Igoumenitsa in Greece to Brindisi in Italy with nearly 300 people aboard.

Most of the passengers were quickly evacuated within an hour on Friday, and a 21-year-old Belarussian truck driver emerged alive on Sunday.

The Belarussian and two other men from Bulgaria and Romania remained hospitalised Monday with breathing difficulty, Corfu hospital director Leonidas Roumbatis told reporters.

But 10 other truck drivers -- seven Bulgarians, two Greeks and one Turk -- remain unaccounted for.

The body of a 58-year-old Greek truck driver was recovered Sunday, the first confirmed fatality of the accident.

On Monday, more than 40 firefighters were taking part in the search and rescue operation with tugboats and coastguard vessels on close standby, amid reports that the weather was due to deteriorate later on Monday.

"It is a very difficult operation," a fire department spokeswoman told AFP. "There is major thermal stress and a lot of smoke."

Rescue coordinator Dimitris Kontogiannis told Greek public television ERT that temperatures on board the smouldering ferry "are over 400 degrees Celsius (752 Fahrenheit) in some areas."

Two of those rescued were Afghan nationals not on the passenger list, sparking fears that more undocumented passengers might also have been aboard.

- 'Many complaints' -

The missing drivers reportedly slept in their vehicles because cabins on the ferry were unsuitable, according to the Greek truck drivers' union.

"We had many complaints about living conditions for the drivers," union chairman Akis Dermatis told ERT.

"They've been saying this for years, they can't all be crazy or liars," he said.

Speaking to Greek media, drivers have complained of bug bites and signs of rodent infestation in cabins.

"The cabins are, to put it mildly, like stables," the wife of one of the missing Greek truckers, Vana Bekiari, told reporters at Corfu harbour as she waited for news on the rescue operation.

"Four drivers are placed in a single cabin in the midst of a pandemic," she said.

With the vehicles parked ten centimetres (four inches) apart, survivors said it was nearly impossible for someone inside to escape once docking was completed.

Greek daily Kathimerini over the weekend said the Greek trucker union had since June 2017 warned about conditions on the Olympia as well as another ferry belonging to Grimaldi Lines.

The last fire onboard a ship in the Adriatic occurred in December 2014 on the Italian ferry Norman Atlantic, in which 13 people died.