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Fears death toll from stricken ferry will rise

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The ferry blaze

The ferry blaze

The ferry blaze

Prosecutors in Italy have said they fear more bodies will be found aboard the crippled Greek ferry Norman Atlantic, adrift for a third day after a fire broke out on a car deck, with 10 people killed in the ensuing chaos.

Bari prosecutor Giuseppe Volpe has ordered the ferry, currently drifting off the Albanian coastline, to be towed to the southern Italian port of Brindisi as part of a criminal investigation.

Mr Volpe said it is likely other bodies will be found in the cargo areas given "incontrovertible" evidence that illegal migrants were on board.

Salvage companies were working to secure tow lines to begin moving the ferry, but were hampered by high winds and seas. Two Albanian tugboat crew members died yesterday, apparently struck by a tow line that snapped.

Rescuers have been searching the waters around the crippled ferry and below deck for more possible victims amid confusion over how many people were aboard.

fire-blackened

The death toll had already climbed to at least 10, and helicopter rescue crews evacuated the last of the 400-plus known survivors aboard the fire-blackened vessel.

The vessel's operator, Anek Lines, said 475 were on the ferry, but Italian officials said the names on the manifest might have represented just reservations.

Italian admiral Giovanni Pettorino said 80 of those rescued were not on the list, giving credence to suggestions that the ferry might have been carrying a number of immigrants illegally trying to reach Italy.

The blaze broke out on the car deck of while the ferry was travelling from the Greek port of Patras to Ancona in Italy.

The fire caused thick, acrid smoke to fill cabins, waking passengers on the overnight ferry from Greece to Italy.

In the chaos that followed, passengers said they received virtually no instructions from the crew.

The principle of women and children first went out of the window, and passengers started pushing and shoving and came to blows over lifeboats.

hnews@herald.ie


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