Toll in Italian ferry fire rises to eight, others rescued | world | Hindustan Times
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Toll in Italian ferry fire rises to eight, others rescued

world Updated: Dec 30, 2014 00:20 IST

Rescue teams on Monday completed the evacuation of nearly 500 people from a car ferry that caught fire off Greece's Adriatic coast, working through the night and defying high seas and freezing weather in a 36-hour drama.

But eight people were killed in the incident, the Italian coastguard said.

The fire broke out on a vehicle deck of the Norman Atlantic ferry, which was carrying 478 passengers and crew and more than 200 vehicles, early on Sunday. Rescue efforts were immediately complicated by bad weather.

Italian and Greek helicopters began airlifting passengers from the upper deck as the ferry drifted in rough seas between Greece and Italy on Sunday afternoon, continuing the operation throughout the night.

The car ferry Norman Atlantic in waters off Greece before and after the fire

The Italian captain, Argilio Giacomazzi, abandoned the ship once all others had been evacuated, the Italian coastguard said.

A medical team and a flight operator had boarded the vessel to assist the passengers and crew during the rescue, the Italian navy said. Its San Giorgio amphibious transport ship coordinated the rescue operation.

A merchant ship carrying a reported 49 of the ferry passengers, including four children, arrived in the southern Italian port of Bari early on Monday.

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined. Prosecutors in Bari were opening an investigation into how the fire started.

A Greek truck driver aboard one of the rescue vessels described the rescue scene as "a chaos, a panic."

He said the fire alarm came after most passengers, alerted by smoke filling their cabins, had gone outside.