Death toll in the Greek ferry fire rises to 10

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Multiple Deaths in Greek Ferry Fire

BARI, Italy (AP) -- Fighting high winds and stormy seas, helicopter rescue crews on Monday evacuated hundreds of people trapped aboard a Greek ferry that caught fire off Albania. The death toll climbed to 10 as survivors told of a frantic rush to escape, caught among flames, pelting rain and passengers who fought others for rescue.

The evacuation of the overnight ferry from Greece to Italy was completed in the early afternoon with the rescue of 427 people, including 56 crew members, said Italy's transport minister, Maurizio Lupi.

The original ferry manifest listed 422 passengers and 56 crew members, but Italian navy Adm. Giovanni Pettorino said 80 of those rescued did not appear on it at all.

That backed up something that officials as high as Italian Premier Matteo Renzi have hinted throughout the day: That the ferry may have been carrying a number of illegal migrants trying to reach Italy.

Italian authorities said two boats were remaining in the Adriatic Sea to continue the search for people who may still be missing, while a priority was placed on comparing the list of those rescued and deceased with the passenger list to determine how many people, if any, may still be unaccounted for.

`'We cannot say how many people may be missing," Lupi said.

Adm. Giuseppe De Giorgi, an Italian naval commander, said it was possible others had fallen in the water when lifeboats were initially deployed.

The problem wasn't just that the ferry carried people not officially declared. It remained unclear how many people on the original manifest never actually boarded the ill-fated ferry, which caught flames early Sunday en route from the Greek port of Patras to the Italian port of Ancona.

Of the 10 dead, one Greek man died Sunday trying to get into a lifeboat, with his wife, who survived; and four bodies were recovered from the sea on Monday. The circumstances and identities of the other three were unknown.

The fire broke out before dawn Sunday on a car deck of the Italian-flagged Norman Atlantic. All day and night, passengers huddled on the vessel's upper decks, pelted by rain and hail and struggling to breathe through the thick smoke.

Exhausted and cold from their ordeal, the largest group of 49 passengers reached land Monday in the southern Italian port of Bari, more than 24 hours after the fire began.

Evacuees, many wrapped in blankets, made their way gingerly down the exterior stairs with assistance, some thrusting their hands in a victory sign as they waited their turn. Among them were four children. The evacuees then boarded bright red fire department buses. Officials have said hotels have been booked for them around town.

Later Monday, one of the rescue ships arrived at the Greek port of Igoumenitsa, carrying some 69 rescued ferry passengers among the roughly 500 people on board, while seven people had been airlifted from the ferry to Corfu.

But many rescued passengers remained on boats still searching off the Albanian coast. Authorities said they eventually would be taken by helicopter to land to allow the search to continue, without specifying where.

The Greek and Italian premiers separately expressed their condolences to the victims and gratitude to the rescue workers for persisting throughout the night in worsening weather conditions, against winds over 40 knots (75 kph; 46 mph).

"Notwithstanding the weather and the darkness, which is another factor, we persisted throughout the entire night," Pettorino told Sky TG24.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samras said the `'massive and unprecedented operation saved the lives of hundreds of passengers following the fire on the ship in the Adriatic Sea - under the most difficult circumstances," while Renzi said the `'impressive" rescue efforts prevented `'a slaughter at sea."

Passenger accounts emerging Monday painted a picture of a panicked reaction as the fire spread, with passengers choking on the smoke and struggling to figure out how to reach safety as they suffered both searing heat from the ship's floors and driving rain outside.

Prosecutors in Bari were opening an investigation into how the fire started. The damaged ferry itself was to be taken eventually to a northern Adriatic port, but officials said it had not yet been determined which one.

A Greek truck driver, reached by The Associated Press aboard one of the rescue vessels, described the rescue scene as "a chaos, a panic." He said the fire alarm came after most passengers, alerted by smoke filling their cabins, had gone outside, and that there was no crew in sight to direct passengers.

"Our feet were burning and from the feet up we were soaked," Christos Perlis, 32, said by telephone.

When rescue helicopters arrived, Perlis said passengers began to panic.

"Everyone there was trampling on each other to get onto the helicopter," said Perlis, who said he and another man tried to impose order.

"First children, then women and then men. But the men, they started hitting us so they could get on first. They didn't take into consideration the women or the children, nothing," Perlis said. He said he reached safety after jumping in a helicopter basket carrying a girl.

Turkish passenger Saadet Bayhan, speaking to Turkey's NTV television from a rescue ship, confirmed that there were no fire alarms and that passengers woke each other up.

"We experienced the Titanic. The only thing missing was that we didn't sink," she said.

Another rescued Turkish passenger, Aylin Akamac, told the state-run Anadolu Agency from a hospital in Brindisi that the rescue operation was disorganized and that there were only three lifeboats on the ferry.

"Those who got out first got on the lifeboats," she said, while the others were made to wait. "We were soaked from the water they doused to extinguish the fire. Our feet froze. People were forced to move closer to the fire to keep warm. We waited outside for hours."

Survivors were also taken to southern Italian hospitals in smaller numbers in the hours immediately after the rescue operation got underway. Several were treated for hypothermia, some for mild carbon monoxide poisoning and one woman suffered a fractured pelvis, officials said.

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Greece ferry fire - updated 01/01/2015
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Death toll in the Greek ferry fire rises to 10
BRINDISI, ITALY - JANUARY 05: The burned-out ferry 'Norman Atlantic' stands moored in port on January 05, 2015 in Brindisi, Italy. Firemen and police investigators have so far been unable to gain access deep inside the vessel in the their search for more bodies as temperatures inside the hull from the fire that struck the ship remain too high. The Italian-owned ferry caught fire on December 28, 2014, on its journey from Patras in Greece to Ancona in Italy. At least 11 people are confirmed dead as a result of the blaze and 477 survived after being rescued by the Italian Coast Guard and Navy, though 19 passengers remain unaccounted for and are presumed to likely be dead and still inside the ship. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)
BRINDISI, ITALY - JANUARY 05: The burned-out ferry 'Norman Atlantic' stands moored in port on January 05, 2015 in Brindisi, Italy. Firemen and police investigators have so far been unable to gain access deep inside the vessel in the their search for more bodies as temperatures inside the hull from the fire that struck the ship remain too high. The Italian-owned ferry caught fire on December 28, 2014, on its journey from Patras in Greece to Ancona in Italy. At least 11 people are confirmed dead as a result of the blaze and 477 survived after being rescued by the Italian Coast Guard and Navy, though 19 passengers remain unaccounted for and are presumed to likely be dead and still inside the ship. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)
BRINDISI, ITALY - JANUARY 05: Smoke rises from the burned-out ferry 'Norman Atlantic' as it stands moored in port on January 05, 2015 in Brindisi, Italy. Firemen and police investigators have so far been unable to gain access deep inside the vessel in the their search for more bodies as temperatures inside the hull from the fire that struck the ship remain too high. The Italian-owned ferry caught fire on December 28, 2014, on its journey from Patras in Greece to Ancona in Italy. At least 11 people are confirmed dead as a result of the blaze and 477 survived after being rescued by the Italian Coast Guard and Navy, though 19 passengers remain unaccounted for and are presumed to likely be dead and still inside the ship. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)
A picture taken on January 3, 2015 at sunset shows Italian-owned Norman Atlantic ferry moored at the pier of Brindisi. Bari prosecutor Giuseppe Volpe ordered the Italian-owned vessel to be towed to Brindisi so that it can be searched for corpses and for clues as to what caused the huge fire that erupted on board on December 28. The fire led to the deaths of at least 13 people and there are fears the final toll could be higher amid uncertainty over how many people were actually on board. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
A survivor (L) of the 'Norman Atlantic' ferry hugs a relative after arriving at the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens on December 31, 2014. Two Albanian seamen were among 13 people confirmed killed in a ferry disaster in the Adriatic Sea on December 30, as officials warned the discovery of stowaways on board meant the true death toll could be far higher. Greek and Italian authorities were still unable to say with any certainty how many paying passengers were on board the Norman Atlantic when it burst into flames in stormy seas near the island of Corfu on December 28. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS (Photo credit should read ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A survivor (C) of the ferry 'Norman Atlantic' hugs a relative after arriving at the International Airport 'Eleftherios Venizelos, in Athens on December 31, 2014. The death toll from a ferry disaster in the Adriatic Sea rose to 13, as fears mounted that the final count could be much higher. Uncertainty over the scale of the tragedy persisted with Greek and Italian authorities still unable to say with any certainty how many paying passengers were on board the Norman Atlantic when it burst into flames. AFP PHOTO / Angelos Tzortzinis (Photo credit should read ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
IGOUMENITSA, GREECE - DECEMBER 29: A container vessel named Cruise Europa carrying 69 people evacuated from a car ferry 'Norman Atlantic' which caught fire with some 480 people on board in the Adriatic Sea arrive in the Greek port of Igoumenitsa on December 29, 2014. (Photo by Athens News Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IGOUMENITSA, GREECE - DECEMBER 29: A container vessel named Cruise Europa carrying 69 people evacuated from a car ferry 'Norman Atlantic' which caught fire with some 480 people on board in the Adriatic Sea arrive in the Greek port of Igoumenitsa on December 29, 2014. (Photo by Athens News Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A survivor of the ferry 'Norman Atlantic' reacts as she hugs her child after arriving at the Elefsina military airport in Athens on December 29, 2014. The death toll after a ferry caught fire in rough seas in the Adriatic rose to ten on December 29 with dozens of passengers still unaccounted for. It was unclear whether the missing passengers had drowned or otherwise died unnoticed or whether the ill-fated Norman Atlantic's manifest lists were inaccurate. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS (Photo credit should read ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A survivor of the ferry 'Norman Atlantic' reacts as she hugs her children after arriving at the Elefsina military airport in Athens on December 29, 2014. The death toll after a ferry caught fire in rough seas in the Adriatic rose to ten on December 29 with dozens of passengers still unaccounted for. It was unclear whether the missing passengers had drowned or otherwise died unnoticed or whether the ill-fated Norman Atlantic's manifest lists were inaccurate. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS (Photo credit should read ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
IGOUMENITSA, GREECE - DECEMBER 29: A container vessel named Cruise Europa carrying 69 people evacuated from a car ferry 'Norman Atlantic' which caught fire with some 480 people on board in the Adriatic Sea arrive in the Greek port of Igoumenitsa on December 29, 2014. (Photo by Athens News Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IGOUMENITSA, GREECE - DECEMBER 29: A container vessel named Cruise Europa carrying 69 people evacuated from a car ferry 'Norman Atlantic' which caught fire with some 480 people on board in the Adriatic Sea arrive in the Greek port of Igoumenitsa on December 29, 2014. (Photo by Athens News Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IGOUMENITSA, GREECE - DECEMBER 29: A container vessel named Cruise Europa carrying 69 people evacuated from a car ferry 'Norman Atlantic' which caught fire with some 480 people on board in the Adriatic Sea arrive in the Greek port of Igoumenitsa on December 29, 2014. (Photo by Athens News Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IGOUMENITSA, GREECE - DECEMBER 29: A container vessel named Cruise Europa carrying 69 people evacuated from a car ferry 'Norman Atlantic' which caught fire with some 480 people on board in the Adriatic Sea arrive in the Greek port of Igoumenitsa on December 29, 2014. (Photo by Athens News Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IGOUMENITSA, GREECE - DECEMBER 29: A container vessel named Cruise Europa carrying 69 people evacuated from a car ferry 'Norman Atlantic' which caught fire with some 480 people on board in the Adriatic Sea arrive in the Greek port of Igoumenitsa on December 29, 2014. (Photo by Athens News Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A survivor of the ferry 'Norman Atlantic' hugs a friend after arriving at the Elefsina military airport in Athens on December 29, 2014. The death toll after a ferry caught fire in rough seas in the Adriatic rose to ten on December 29 with dozens of passengers still unaccounted for. It was unclear whether the missing passengers had drowned or otherwise died unnoticed or whether the ill-fated Norman Atlantic's manifest lists were inaccurate. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS (Photo credit should read ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
IGOUMENITSA, GREECE - DECEMBER 29: A container vessel named Cruise Europa carrying 69 people evacuated from the car ferry 'Norman Atlantic' which caught fire with some 480 people on board in the Adriatic Sea have arrived in the Greek port of Igoumenitsa on December 29, 2014. (Photo by Athens News Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Survivors of the ferry 'Norman Atlantic' disembark from the ship 'Siprit of Piraeus' in the harbor of Bari, southern Italy on December 29, 2014. 49 survivors were evacuated from the burning ferry 'Norman Atlantic' on board the Singapore-flagged cargo container ship 'Siprit of Piraeus'. More than 140 shivering, exhausted and terrified passengers and crew remained stranded on a stricken car ferry that caught fire in the Adriatic Sea 30 hours earlier. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
An injured passenger arrives at the Antonio Perrino hospital in Brindisi, southern Italy, rescued from the burning ferry 'Norman Atlantic' adrift off the coast of Albania, on December 28, 2014. Rescuers battled in the dark to save more than 300 trapped passengers from a burning Italian ferry as coastguards reported the first death in the high-seas drama. The Greek maritime ministry said 268 of the passengers were Greek, with the crew made up of 22 Italians and 34 Greeks. But the rest of the passengers were made up of 54 Turks, 44 Italians, 22 Albanians, 18 Germans, 10 Swiss, nine French, and Russian, Austrian, British and Dutch nationals. AFP PHOTO/CARLO HERMANN (Photo credit should read CARLO HERMANN/AFP/Getty Images)
A rescued passenger arrives at the Antonio Perrino hospital in Brindisi, southern Italy, after being lifted off the burning ferry 'Norman Atlantic' adrift off the coast of Albania, on December 28, 2014. Rescuers battled in the dark to save more than 300 trapped passengers from a burning Italian ferry as coastguards reported the first death in the high-seas drama. The Greek maritime ministry said 268 of the passengers were Greek, with the crew made up of 22 Italians and 34 Greeks. But the rest of the passengers were made up of 54 Turks, 44 Italians, 22 Albanians, 18 Germans, 10 Swiss, nine French, and Russian, Austrian, British and Dutch nationals. AFP PHOTO/RENATO ESPOSITO (Photo credit should read RENATO ESPOSITO/AFP/Getty Images)
An injured passenger arrives at the Antonio Perrino hospital in Brindisi, southern Italy, rescued from the burning ferry 'Norman Atlantic' adrift off the coast of Albania, on December 28, 2014. Rescuers battled in the dark to save more than 300 trapped passengers from a burning Italian ferry as coastguards reported the first death in the high-seas drama. The Greek maritime ministry said 268 of the passengers were Greek, with the crew made up of 22 Italians and 34 Greeks. But the rest of the passengers were made up of 54 Turks, 44 Italians, 22 Albanians, 18 Germans, 10 Swiss, nine French, and Russian, Austrian, British and Dutch nationals. AFP PHOTO/RENATO ESPOSITO (Photo credit should read RENATO ESPOSITO/AFP/Getty Images)
An injured passenger arrives at the Antonio Perrino hospital in Brindisi, southern Italy, rescued from the burning ferry 'Norman Atlantic' adrift off the coast of Albania, on December 28, 2014. Rescuers battled in the dark to save more than 300 trapped passengers from a burning Italian ferry as coastguards reported the first death in the high-seas drama. The Greek maritime ministry said 268 of the passengers were Greek, with the crew made up of 22 Italians and 34 Greeks. But the rest of the passengers were made up of 54 Turks, 44 Italians, 22 Albanians, 18 Germans, 10 Swiss, nine French, and Russian, Austrian, British and Dutch nationals. AFP PHOTO/RENATO ESPOSITO (Photo credit should read RENATO ESPOSITO/AFP/Getty Images)
Medical staff address the media at the Antonio Perrino hospital in Brindisi, southern Italy, about rescue operations of burning ferry 'Norman Atlantic' adrift off Albania on December 28, 2014. Desperate passengers pleaded by mobile phone live on TV to be saved from a burning ferry adrift off Albania on Sunday as rescuers battled gale-force winds and billowing smoke to get to them. AFP PHOTO / CARLO HERMANN (Photo credit should read CARLO HERMANN/AFP/Getty Images)
A medical staff member (L) speaks with Italian Coast guards at the Antonio Perrino hospital in Brindisi, southern Italy, about rescue operations of burning ferry 'Norman Atlantic' adrift off Albania on December 28, 2014. Desperate passengers pleaded by mobile phone live on TV to be saved from a burning ferry adrift off Albania on Sunday as rescuers battled gale-force winds and billowing smoke to get to them. AFP PHOTO / CARLO HERMANN (Photo credit should read CARLO HERMANN/AFP/Getty Images)
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