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Eleven passengers missing after Greece ferry blaze

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A passenger listed as missing after a blaze swept through a ferry sailing from Greece to Italy has been found alive by rescuers, a Greek shipping ministry official says.

The Greek coast guard rescued 280 out of 292 passengers and crew who were onboard when the blaze broke out on the Italian-flagged Euroferry Olympic early on Friday.

According to the ferry operator and Greek authorities, 11 passengers are still missing. They are from Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and Lithuania.

Rescuers discovered the survivor on Sunday on the vessel’s stern as it was being towed to shore, the coast guard said.

Greek television footage showed a man climbing down a stepladder from the vessel onto a tugboat tied to it.

On Saturday, firefighters battled for a second day to control the fire and crews towed the vessel closer to the shore.

Footage showed plumes of smoke pouring out of the Italian-flagged Euroferry Olympia as firefighters from a nearby vessel sprayed water onto the burning ferry in the Ionian Sea.

A total of 241 passengers and 51 crew were on board when the blaze broke out early on Friday and rescue vessels moved most of the 280 people who were rescued to the nearby island of Corfu.

The 183-metre ferry caught fire en route from Igoumenitsa, a port in Western Greece, to the Italian port of Brindisi, a nine-hour journey.

Aerial footage released by the Greek coastguard on Friday showed rows of burnt trucks on the blackened deck after flames engulfed the ship, owned by Grimaldi Lines. The ferry was carrying 153 vehicles, the company said.

As firefighters tried to cool scorching temperatures on the ship before emergency crews boarded it to resume search operations, the blazing ferry was towed closer to the shore for better protection against adverse weather, Greek coastguard and fire brigade officials said.

Late on Friday, Greek crews rescued two people, a Bulgarian and an Afghan citizen, who was not on the official list of missing people.

Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry said 127 Bulgarians were on board.

Consular staff from the passengers’ home countries were in Corfu to help coordinate their safe return with the ferry company, a witness said.

A prosecutor has ordered an inquiry into the incident, the Greek coastguard said, adding that the captain and both first mates of the ship had been briefly detained to testify and were later released.

Authorities will have more evidence about the cause of the fire once the ship is tugged to a safe place, Shipping Minister Giannis Plakiotakis told Skai television.

AAP

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