Many people are still trapped in the Italian-flagged ferry which caught fire off the Greek island of Corfu on Sunday and waiting to be rescued on Sunday night.
Italian authorities said late on Sunday that there were still nearly 300 people on board the Norman Atlantic ferry, which was sailing from western Greece to Italy with 478 passengers and crew when a fire started in one of the garages in the early morning.
Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said that rescue operations of passengers from the burning vessel, chartered by Greek managing shipping firm ANEK Lines from an Italian company, would continue through the night.
The country dispatched helicopters and vessels to take part in the rescue operations, which were coordinated by Italian authorities and hampered by rough seas and gale-force winds.
The Italian government confirmed media news that a Greek national died after slipping into the icy water while attempting to put himself and his wife in a safe place.
Sources of the Italian navy said the health conditions of dozens of survivors being taken to hospitals in southern Italy, mainly suffering from hypothermia, were quite good overall.
“I tried to help other people, but I felt frozen with the cold. I though I could die, but then hope was stronger. Now it is like living a second life,” an Italian survivor told Rai State television.
“It was like being on the Titanic,” two sisters from Greece who were hospitalized in Brindisi, a city in southern Italy on the Adriatic, said. ANSA news agency highlighted that many passengers appeared to be deeply shocked.
The ferry’s captain, an Italian national named Argilio Giacomazzi, 62, was reported to be still on board to help rescue operations. He was described by local media as a very experienced captain.
“We learnt the news of the accident this morning from the web and television, after which the owner company told us that the evacuation was underway,” his daughter Giulia was quoted as saying by local media. “I have no idea of when I will see my father again, I hope as soon as possible,” she added.
“Weather conditions are very bad and the air is freezingly cold. Those people are certainly suffering a lot,” a spokesman of the Italian navy, Riccardo Rizzotto, said referring to those waiting to be rescued.
Rizzotto said a tug boat was trying to hook onto the Norman Atlantic. “Rescuing all passengers is our first priority, after which port authorities will decide where to tow the vessel,” he said.