A fire broke out early Sunday on the Italian ro/ro ferry, Norman Atlantic, on route between the Greek port of Patras to Ancona, Italy with 478 passengers and crew aboard. The fire is believed to have broken out on the ro/ro deck. The ship is currently drifting west of the island of Corfu in the Adriatic Sea. Rescue efforts are underway but are being hampered by gale force winds, high seas and bitterly cold conditions. 150 people are reported to have escaped the burning ship. The rest of the passengers and crew have sought refuge on the vessel’s bridge deck. There are no reported casualties. Attempts to airlift passengers off the burning ferry have begun but are being made difficult by high winds. Salvage tugs have been dispatcher from both Italy and Greece.
The Norman Atlantic is a 2009 built, Italian registry, 26,900-tonne, roll-on roll-off ferry chartered by Greek ferry company ANEK. Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis is quoted as saying, “We are doing everything we can to save those on board and no one, no one will be left helpless in this tough situation. It is one of the most complicated rescue operations that we have ever done.”