Daily Sabah (Turkey)
24 Turks rescued from burning ferry off Greek coast
AMONG the 288 trapped passengers onboard an Italian-flagged ferry that caught fire Friday en route to Italy were 24 Turkish nationals as per media reports. No casualties have been reported though İhlas News Agency (İHA) reported that a Turkish national is missing.
Hayrullah Çetin, a Turkish truck driver, was among the rescued passengers. Çetin told the Hürriyet newspaper that he was among the last passengers to board the ferry and heard the evacuation call around two hours after their voyage began. “We were directed to an evacuation area and the navy police came. After that we are taken to lifeboats and then, to Corfu island,” he said. Çetin said he lost everything including his passport.
Fahri Özgen, another Turkish passenger, said he was going to Italy on a business trip by car. He said there were 22 truck drivers from Turkey aboard the ferry. “I saw people jumping into sea,” he recounted the moments of fire.
Cevdet Bilen, Turkish captain of a vessel helping the evacuation efforts, said they were searching for people presumed to be missing in the area. “We don’t know if they are aboard the ship or jumped into sea,” he said. Bilen said they were told that all 22 Turkish truck drivers were evacuated to Corfu island.
All passengers from the Italian-flagged Euroferry Olympia, which was heading to Italy from the Greek city of Igoumenitsa, are safe and on rescue boats, Secretary of State for the Merchant Navy Kostas Katsafados has told Greek radio station Skai.
The coast guard said 237 passengers and 51 crew members were onboard. Police said three tug boats and three patrol boats were sent to help passengers. “The captain of the Euroferry Olympia asked the passengers to leave the boat,” police said. They were being transported to the nearby Greek island of Corfu, said the Greek coastguard, leading the rescue operation.
The incident took place around 4:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m. GMT) off the northern coast of Corfu, between Greece and Albania, an official from the Greek coast guard’s press office told Agence France-Presse (AFP). The cause of the fire is not yet known and an investigation has begun, the agency said.