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Greece: Twelve people still missing as firefighters battle blaze

Twelve people are still missing after a blaze swept through a ferry sailing from Greece to Italy early on Friday, Greek authorities said on Saturday, as firefighters battled for a second day to control the fire.

Reuters live footage showed plumes of smoke pouring out of the Italian-flagged Euroferry Olympia ferry as firefighters from a nearby vessel sprayed water onto the burning vessel.

A total of 241 passengers and 51 crew were on board when the blaze broke out on Friday and rescue vessels moved most of the 280 who were rescued to the nearby island of Corfu.

The 183-metre (600-foot) ferry caught fire en route from Igoumenitsa, a port in Western Greece, to the Italian port of Brindisi, a nine-hour journey.

The missing passengers are from Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and Lithuania, the Greek coastguard said.

A prosecutor has launched an inquiry into the incident, Greek state television said.

Firefighters were trying to reduce scorching temperatures on the ship before emergency crews boarded it to resume search operations, a fire brigade official said.

Aerial footage released by the Greek coastguard on Friday showed rows of burnt trucks on the blackened deck after flames swept through the ship, owned by Grimaldi Lines.

Late on Friday, Greek crews rescued two people, a Bulgarian and an Afghan citizen, who was not on the official list of missing people. They were taken to the hospital of Corfu, the company said in a statement.

Bulgaria’s foreign ministry said 127 of its citizens were on board.

Most of those rescued were taken to hotels on Corfu, where some recounted their ordeal.

“I have been coming and going for so many years, I have never experienced such a situation before,” 50-year-old Greek truck driver, Giorgos Parlatzas, who was evacuated from the ship, said from a Corfu hotel.

The ferry was carrying 153 vehicles, Grimaldi Lines said.

The cause of the blaze is being investigated and authorities will have more evidence once the ship is tugged to a safe place, Shipping Minister Giannis Plakiotakis told Skai television. [Reuters]