Death toll in the Greek ferry fire rises to 8 - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Death toll in the Greek ferry fire rises to 8

Posted: Updated:
ATHENS, Greece -

BARI, Italy (AP) - Italian Premier Matteo Renzi says that the evacuation of the Greek ferry that caught fire off Albania has been completed, and that only the vessel's captain and four Italian sailors remain on board to assist in the operation.

Italian authorities say the death toll has risen to eight, and that they are checking to see if anyone else might still be missing.

Italy's transport minister, Maurizio Lupi, said 427 people have been rescued, including 56 crew members.

The original manifest listed 478 passengers and crew.

Lupi said it was premature to speculate on whether people were still missing, but suggested that there might have been some people who reserved a spot on the ferry but did not board.

He said they were checking the manifest against the names of the 427 rescued.

An official said that among the survivors, there were also people not listed on the manifest, indicating the possibility that some on board were traveling illegally.

Greek and Italian rescue helicopters and vessels struggled to reach the crippled ferry originally, battered by 90 kilometer per hour (55 mph) winds that pushed it toward the Albanian coast. Nearby merchant ships lined up to form a barrier to protect the ferry from towering waves and facilitate rescue.

A man who was on board the burning Greek ferry says when one of the rescue helicopters arrived people began to panic and trampled each other.

Christos Perlis says he and another man tried to impose order, and told everyone that children and then women would be rescued first. But, he says, some men started hitting him so that they could leave first. Perlis says he reached safety after jumping in a helicopter basket carrying a girl.

Perlis says the fire alarm wasn't sounded until most passengers, alerted by the smoke in their cabins, had gone outside. He says there were no crew members in sight to direct them.

Perlis says passengers had to deal with the searing temperatures of the ship's floors, and the driving rain outside. He says, "Our feet were burning, and from the feet up we were soaked."

A Turkish woman, speaking to a TV station in Turkey, confirms that there were no fire alarms, and that passengers woke each other up. She says, "We experienced the Titanic. The only thing missing was that we didn't sink."

Another rescued Turkish passenger, speaking from a hospital, tells a Turkish news agency that there were only three lifeboats on the ferry. She says, "Those who got out first got on the lifeboats," while others had to wait.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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