On February 18, the Euroferry Olympia caught fire during its nine-hour overnight voyage from Igoumenitsa, Greece to Brindisi, Italy. The flames started to spread as the ship sailed near Corfu in the Ionian Sea. When the fire started, the 183-meter ship was carrying 240 passengers, 51 crew members, and 153 vehicles. On the day of the incident, it was announced that 11 people went missing, eight foreign nationals and three Greek citizens.
As the ship began to burn, sirens aboard blasted the distress signal “Mayday”, warning passengers of the dire situation. More than 10 people were taken to a hospital in Corfu, after being saved by rescue vessels.
Greek search and rescue teams, in conjunction with Dutch and Greek specialists, are among those searching for missing persons. On February 20, two days after the fire, the first confirmed passenger death was reported. The death was that of a 58-year-old Greek man. On February 23, an additional passenger was found deceased outside of their vehicle on the ferry. Two more victims were reported on February 24. The identities of the most recent victims are unknown, but all recovered bodies were found in the garages of the ferry. The remaining seven missing passengers are reportedly all truck drivers.
In an official statement, the Greek Truckers’ Union claimed that a possible reason as to why all of the confirmed victims have been truck drivers may be that the ferry cabins are “unsuitable”. They went on to explain that truckers prefer to sleep in their cars, rather than in their cabins.
A recent discovery of two Afghan passengers – not included in the passenger log – has led search teams to worry that there may be more missing people than originally anticipated. These other passengers will be harder to account for.
The Hellenic Bureau for Marine Casualties and the “Direzione Generale Investigazioni Ferroviarie e Marittime” have launched an investigation on the cause of the fire. Paul Kyprianou, a Grimaldi Lines spokesperson, stated that there are signs that the fire began in one of the holds of the ship. Grimaldi Lines, the company that owns the ferry, stated that the incident caused no environmental damage, and that no oil leaked into the waters.
A similar incident occurred back in 2014, when a ferry caught fire in its parking bay. The ferry – carrying more than 400 passengers – was making a similar voyage from Igoumenitsa, Greece to Ancona, Italy.
Featured image by The Guardian.