Evacuation of burning ferry complete

UPDATED: All surviving passengers have been evacuated from the Norman Atlantic ferry, which caught fire close to the coast of Corfu yesterday (Sunday), but seven people are known to have died.

Four Britons were among the 422 passengers and 56 crew members on board the ferry, including show-jumper Nick Channing-Williams, who was taken to a hospital in Italy for a check-up with his Greek fiancee Regina Theofilli.

Mr Channing-Williams later explained that he was woken at about 5am by a fire alarm and said:”By the time we got out on deck the flames were huge. A lot of the cars were on fire. It was actually just very scary to be honest.”

Rescue ships and helicopters spent hours lifting people to safety amid stormy seas, driving rain and hail before the ferry’s captain, Argilio Giacomazzi, handed over control of the vessel to the Italian navy at 2.50pm local time. 

Greek merchant marine minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said that 316 people had been evacuated by early Monday morning, leaving 161 on board, who had been given thermal blankets while they waited to eventually be carried to safety.

Helicopters made 34 rescue sorties overnight in winds of up to 46mph (74kph).

Italian coast guard Admiral Giovanni Pettorino said: “Notwithstanding the weather and the darkness, which is another factor, we persisted throughout the entire night.”

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