ATHENS — Hundreds of people were rescued on Friday from a burning ferry near the Greek island of Corfu, according to a Greek Coast Guard spokesman, who said two passengers remained trapped in the ship’s garage and 11 more were missing.
The fire broke out early Friday morning on the deck of the ship, the Euroferry Olympia, which was bound for the Italian port of Brindisi, the Coast Guard said.
Four Coast Guard ships, along with vessels of the Italian financial police, came to the ferry’s aid after its captain made an emergency call.
The ferry departed early Friday morning from the port of Igoumenitsa, in northwestern Greece, carrying 239 passengers and 51 crew members, as well as 153 commercial vehicles and 32 passenger vehicles.
Rescuers were trying to locate the missing passengers, including two people who were trapped below deck, according to Nikolaos Alexiou, the Coast Guard spokesman. No deaths or serious injuries were confirmed, though one man was hospitalized with breathing problems.
Officials said it was too early to say what caused the fire, which was still burning about 12 hours after it started. Video released by the Greek Coast Guard showed flames and thick plumes of smoke engulfing the ferry, which was surrounded by vessels dousing it with water cannons. A nearby vessel can be heard blasting out a “mayday” call in another video posted by a Greek state-run broadcaster, ERT.
“We were in our cabins when the fire started at about 4:30 a.m.,” said a Greek truck driver who said his name was Vangelis, in a telephone interview with state television from the deck of the burning ferry as he waited to board a rescue boat. He said passengers had been ushered away from the blaze and were given life jackets.
Another man, also a Greek truck driver who did not give his name, told a local news website that he had heard explosions shortly after the fire broke out, which he thought might have been truck tires.
Coast Guard vessels and rescue helicopters combed the area looking for survivors, while divers were called in to help.
Earlier in the day, television news showed passengers arriving at the main port of Corfu. A man wearing an oxygen mask was being carried to an ambulance on a stretcher. Others, with stunned expressions, held blankets around themselves.
Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting.