All passengers off stricken Adriatic ferry, Italian coast guard says
(CNN) — Ten people have now been confirmed dead after a ferry caught fire in the Adriatic Sea on Sunday, the Italian coast guard said on Twitter on Monday.
It reported that 427 people have been rescued.
The Italian coast guard earlier said that all remaining passengers had been evacuated from the vessel, with the boat’s commander finally leaving the ship at 2:50 p.m. Monday. The coast guard told CNN it was inspecting the ship and deciding how to transport it — and where.
The public prosecutor in Bari, Italy, told CNN that he has requested the seizure of the ship as part of a criminal investigation into the ferry accident. Authorities are waiting for authorization from Albanian authorities to release the ship, since it is in Albanian waters.
Giuseppe Volpe, the prosecutor, added that the owner and the captain of the ship will be notified of the investigation. No charges have been filed.
Route of the Norman Atlantic
Route of the Norman Atlantic
Burning ferry passengers arrive in Italy
A passenger of the Norman Atlantic is carried on a stretcher in Bari harbor in Italy on Monday, December 29. The ferry, carrying hundreds of passengers, caught fire early Sunday, trapping passengers on the top decks as gale-force winds and choppy seas hampered the evacuation.
Survivors of the ferry fire are helped by rescuers as they disembark from a rescue ship in the Bari harbor in Italy on December 29.
Passengers eat after their arrival at the airport of Corfu island in Greece on December 29.
Smoke billows from the Norman Atlantic in the Adriatic Sea on Sunday, December 28, In this image released by the Italian Navy.
Smoke rises from the Norman Atlantic ferry.
Smoke billows from the Norman Atlantic in the Adriatic Sea on December 28, in this image taken from a video released by the Italian Coast Guard.
An Italian Navy helicopter and a rescue unit leave the port of Brindisi to take part in the rescue operations.
Passengers wait to be rescued from the burning ferry.
An Italian Navy rescue unit leaves the port of Brindisi. A joint Italian-Greek rescue operation will continue into Sunday night according to the Italian Minister of Defense, Roberta Pinotti.
Smoke billows from the ferry. It was heading from Igoumenitsa, Greece, to Ancona, Italy.
Greece’s Coast Guard spokesman Nikolaos Lagadianos delivers a statement concerning the fire to the media in Piraeus port.
The fire is believed to have started in the garage area shortly after the ship set sail.
Ferry catches fire between Greece, Italy
More than 400 passengers had been traveling on the Norman Atlantic between the Greek port of Igoumenitsa and the Italian port of Ancona when the blaze broke out in the ferry’s parking bay.
In the first three hours of the fire, around 150 people were able to escape viab the vessel’s lifeboats. But when the ferry lost power, the electronic arms were unable to function, leaving the rest of the boats dangling uselessly by its side.
Rescue efforts were hampered by strong winds, choppy seas and thick smoke, which prevented other boats from getting close enough to the vessel to get people off.
After waiting for hours in rough conditions, one Greek man told Italian state broadcaster RAI TV that passengers were “dying of cold and suffocating from the smoke,” and that their feet were “burning” from the heat of the flames.
Helicopters with night vision equipment worked through the night to pull passengers off the ferry, one by one.
An Italian navy medical team boarded the ship to aid passengers, some of whom had been suffering hypothermia and smoke inhalation, the navy said. The already cold conditions were worsened by the spray from tugboat hoses as authorities attempted to douse the flames.
A freighter carrying 49 rescued passengers arrived at the port of Bari on Monday. Photos showed survivors wrapped in emergency foil blankets being carried away on stretchers.
One man died after he jumped or fell into the cold water, authorities said. It is unclear how the other victims died.
Hundreds trapped on a burning ferry
First images from inside burning ferry
Hundreds aboard ferry burning in Adriatic
Dramatic cell phone images filmed by a passenger showed flames through shattered portholes, while a wider view released by rescuers showed a huge plume of thick, black smoke streaming from the stricken vessel.
Many passengers were unable to reach the lower decks because of the heat, and the water below was so cold that jumping clear of the ferry was not an option.
Sea surface temperatures had been around 14 to 15 degrees Celsius (57 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit), CNN meteorologist Tom Sater said, which would have limited the survival time in the water to six hours at most.
Passengers told Greek and Italian newsgroups they had felt like “prisoners on a burning ship.”
It’s not known how the fire started, but it’s believed to have originated in the parking bay. A truck driver told the Greek news media that trucks filled with oil were “packed like sardines,” their cargo scraping the ceiling, which could have set off sparks in rough seas to start a fire, he surmised.
Greek authorities said the vessel’s fire doors appeared to have failed, which allowed the flames to spread quickly.
The disaster made national headlines in Greece, Italy and other countries with citizens aboard the ferry. In a Sunday morning public address, Pope Francis offered “affection and prayers” to those affected by the Norman Atlantic ferry fire as well as a collision in the Adriatic Sea between two merchant ships.