ANA – MPA — Two Greeks and three Italians are among the 11 people who died after a fire broke out on board the “Norman Atlantic” ferry on Sunday morning, according to the latest reports by Greek and Italian authorities, while another 130 Greeks that were rescued from the flaming ferry are expected to arrive in Brindisi on the Italian Navy ship “San Giorgio” (updated numbers). In addition, two Albanian sailors died when a tugboat cable snapped as the crippled ferry was being towed to an Albanian port.
Greece joined a new search operation in the Adriatic Sea on Tuesday to locate missing “Norman Atlantic” passengers while Greek and Italian authorities tried to finalise the official number of passengers and missing from the fire-stricken ferry.
Participants on the Greek side include two S-70 Navy helicopters and an AB-205 Air Force helicopter, while National Defence Minister Nikos Dendias has also ordered that frigate “Navarivo” with its onboard helicopter, currently dispatched to another incident involving a ship near Othonoi, remains in the region.
Two NH-90 Army helicopters are on stand-by on Corfu, while the general support ship “Axios” remains in the Ionian Sea.
The crosschecking of the names of the passengers and missing that were on board “Norman Atlantic” continues by Greek and Italian authorities, as there is a discrepancy between the numbers provided by the Italian operations centre and the Greek side, including the ship’s charterer, ANEK ferry lines.
In a press conference earlier on Tuesday by the Coast Guard leadership, given in the presence of Shipping & Aegean Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, Coast Guard spokesman Nikos Lagadianos said that the number of Greek passengers rescued and either on ships or on Greek soil numbers 201.
Six were picked up by a Sikorsky helicopter, 41 by a C-130 transport plane, 38 by “Cruise Europa” ferry, 21 by the ship “Aby Jeannette” and 95 by two Navy ships, Lagadianos said.
According to shipping ministry information, a total of 475 people were on board “Norman Atlantic”, among them, 267 Greeks, while those rescued are 432, based on recently updated numbers.
Minister Varvitsiotis said that a committee reviewing maritime accidents had begun collecting data for a report by the Greek side, while on ministry initiative a prosecutor had begun investigations.
Meanwhile, according to Italian prosecutor Giuseppe Volpe in Bari, a total of 499 people were on board the ferry based on the latest estimates, among them many irregular migrants hiding in the ship’s garage. The prosecutor said that there was no clear information concerning the fate of 179 individuals but many of them might have boarded commercial ships. He said that an investigation into the accident was now underway, using evidence provided by the survivors’ accounts and material recorded on their mobile phones.
Based on information from Italian authorities, 425 passengers were rescued from the flaming ship, 10 are confirmed dead and 40 are still missing, of which 32 are Greek nationals. The body of the second Greek national confirmed dead, Constantinos Koufopoulos, has been taken to an Italian hospital and local authorities in Imathia are in contact with the foreign ministry in order to arrange for its return to Greece.
Shipowner Carlo Visentini and captain Argilio Giacomazzi are facing charges of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck through negligence and causing injuries through negligence.
Meanwhile, Bari prosecutors have contacted authorities in Albania, asking them to assist efforts to confiscate the “Norman Atlantic” and its contents, so that Italian authorities can begin an investigation into the accident. They want the ship towed to a port in Italy, rather than to nearby Vlore in Albania. The ship is currently in Albanian territorial waters but is under an Italian flag and an Italian captain.
The Albanian prosecutor’s office has announced that all procedures are being carried out to immediately provide every possible assistance to Italian authorities in the investigation of the tragic accident.