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Dozens 'missing' in ferry disaster

December 30, 2014

Rescuers are continuing their search for survivors around a stricken ferry that caught fire in the Adriatic Sea on Sunday. It's feared many passengers are missing, while 10 are confirmed to have died.

Brand auf Fähre in der Adria Norman Atlantic 29.12.2014 Rettung
Image: Reuters/Marina Militare

As the search went on into Tuesday, authorities were not sure whether dozens of unaccounted passengers supposed to be aboard the Norman Atlantic had drowned, or whether the ferry's manifest lists were inaccurate.

In the meantime, Italian and Greek authorities continued their air search of the sea around the vessel while they tried to verify how many people should have been on board.

The ferry caught fire early on Sunday about 44 nautical miles off the Greek island of Corfu, headed to the Italian port of Ancona. It is unclear how the fire broke out.

The manifests say the boat was carrying 478 passengers and crew. Ten people are confirmed dead, while 427 were pulled to safety over a long and difficult rescue mission. This leaves 41 people unaccounted for.

It's understood that none of the survivor statements taken so far have given an indication that so many passengers could have died. German news agency dpa said authorities are looking into the possibility that the ferry could have been carrying illegal migrants.

AFP reported, however, that an empty lifeboat washed up on the shores of Albania.

The Italian-owned ship, leased to Greek operator ANEK ferries, started drifting because the fire shut down its steering system. A criminal investigation has opened in the Italian city of Bari, with prosecutors seeking to establish whether negligence was involved.

Passengers described how the boat became engulfed by thick smoke, and described the rescue mission as chaotic. "We did not know what to do. The staff had no idea how to get people off the boat," one told news agency AFP.

jr/ksb (Reuters, AFP)