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live 221 passengers rescued, 256 still in distress aboard the Norman Atlantic

29 December 2014 / 11:12:54  GRReporter
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221 people have been rescued from the blaze aboard the Italian ferry Norman Atlantic, 256 people are still on board. This is the result of the large-scale rescue operation that involved the air and naval forces of Greece and Italy. The full list of rescued passengers is updated online on the website of the Greek Ministry of Merchant Marine Passengers’ relatives and friends can obtain information on the following phone number 0030 210 4191314/316, which the Ministry has disseminated. Until last night, there were two Bulgarian citizens among the rescued passengers, namely Galin Haytov and Krasimir Estov.

Bad weather, heavy seas, strong wind, which is reaching 10 on the Beaufort scale at times and the torrential rain that is turning into hail from time to time are the most serious obstacles accounting for the limited success of the rescue operation. At night, the weather improved for about three hours, allowing the rescuing of more than 70 people. The operation involved eight Italian helicopters that have the capacity to transport 2-3 people and a Greek super puma helicopter, which can transport up to 7-8 people. The Italian authorities had undertaken a mass evacuation of the passengers to a warship, but the rough sea did not allow them to complete it.

The Greek Ministry of Merchant Marine has reported that the fire on the ship is contained, and the leaning continues to be 7 degrees, i.e. the situation has not worsened. The surviving passengers are on the fifth deck, waiting to be rescued. The greatest danger for them is currently hypothermia as they have spent more than 24 hours outdoors in strong wind and rain. Due to bad weather, the three attempts of a tug to approach the ferry and to start towing it to shore have failed. The Italian authorities have not yet decided where to tow the vessel. The nearest port is 30-40 nautical miles away, in the Albanian town of Vlora, but weather conditions there are very bad at present. Therefore, they are considering the option of towing the vessel to the Italian city of Brindisi, which is at a distance of about 60 nautical miles.

There were 222 vehicles on board the Norman Atlantic ferry, the majority of them being trucks. It is believed that the fire was due to overloading. Several tanks that transported olive oil from Greece to Italy were parked too close to each other in the garage compartment. Due to the heavy sea, their metallic hulls were knocking together resulting in an ignition spark that caused the disaster. The chart below shows the plan of Norman Atlantic’s twin ship, Norman Asturias.

It is interesting to note that on 19 December the ship was inspected by the port authorities in Patras, which had detected a shortage of lifejackets, shortage of lifeboats and omissions in the operational evacuation plans of the vessel.

The video below, released by the Italian authorities, shows the rescue operation:

Tags: Norman AtlanticBurning ferryItalyGreeceRescue operationMinistry of Merchant Marine
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