Tuesday 21 May 2019

Italian ferry captain investigated as number of killed or missing rises

Rescued passengers of the
Rescued passengers of the "Norman Atlantic" accident, Marko Gondolo, 40, holds his daughter Serafina, 5, after their arrival from Italy to Elefsina Air Base outside Athens ((AP Photo/Yannis Kolesidis, Pool)
Smoke billows from the Italian-flagged Norman Atlantic ferry that caught fire in the Adriatic Sea, Tuesday. A blaze broke out on the car deck of the Norman Atlantic Sunday, Dec. 28, while the ferry was traveling from the Greek port of Patras to Ancona in Italy causing the death of at least 13 people (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
The car ferry Norman Atlantic is seen on its way to Brindisi harbour after a fire in waters off Greece December 29 (REUTERS/Marina Militare)
People rescued from the fire-struck ferry Norman Atlantic are greeted by relatives as they disembark from the San Giorgio Italian Navy ship, in Brindisi, southern Italy (AP Photo/Massimiliano Frigione)
People rescued from the fire-struck ferry Norman Atlantic are greeted by relatives as they disembark from the San Giorgio Italian Navy ship, in Brindisi, southern Italy (AP Photo/Massimiliano Frigione)
A survivor (C) from the car ferry Norman Atlantic arrives at the Brindisi harbour, December 30. Rescue teams evacuated more than 400 people from the car ferry that caught fire off Greece's Adriatic coast in a 36-hour operation on roiling seas, but at least 13 people were killed in the disaster (REUTERS/Yara Nardi)
People rescued from the fire-struck ferry Norman Atlantic arrive at Brindisi port, southern Italy, after being disembarked from the San Giorgio Italian Navy ship (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

John Philips

The captain and owner of the Italian ferry that caught fire in the Adriatic have been placed under investigation, as the number killed rose to 13 yesterday.

Argilo Giacomazzi (62), the captain of the Norman Atlantic, and Carlo Visentini, its owner, will be investigated on suspicion of negligence and manslaughter, said Italian prosecutor Giuseppe Volpe.

Greece's Supreme Court also called for an investigation "to shed light on the conditions under which the accident occurred".

The move came as two sailors from the Albanian tug Ilaria were killed when a steel cable snapped during another aborted attempt to tow the ferry to land.

Italian naval vessels continued to search waters off Corfu for a third day for survivors or bodies.

Scores are still believed to be missing as uncertainty continues over how many people were on board when fire broke out on Sunday during a voyage from Greece to Italy.

In Bari, the magistrate heading an inquiry into the emergency, Judge Giuseppe Volpe, said that authorities "still have to account for 179 people" listed as being on board, although many of them are believed to be on two freighters carrying survivors to Italy.

The authorities had previously said 427 people were rescued but 70 of them were not on the original passenger list of 487 while three of the 427 were Afghan illegal immigrants who stowed aboard lorries in the hold.

Judge Volpe said he has determined that there were 499 people officially on board, due to overbooking, but that more bodies were expected to be found on the ferry.

"Given that the ship was indisputably carrying illegal migrants who were probably hidden in the hold, we fear that we'll find more dead people once we recover the wreck," the prosecutor, Mr Volpe, added.

"I saw the smoke and I threw myself into the sea," Ramazan Mohammadi, one of the Afghan stowaways who was rescued and arrived in Bari, told 'La Repubblica' newspaper.

"They pulled me into a lifeboat … I thought it could have been better to die under the wheels of the lorry that was supposed to take me to Italy rather than in this inferno."

Greek lorry drivers who survived reportedly told magistrates that many other stowaways were in the hold and may have perished.

Although Capt Giacomazzi was praised by Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, for organising an orderly evacuation, survivors said yesterday that male passengers fought women to try to jump the queue for helicopter rescue.

Three of the dead were identified yesterday as Neapolitan lorry drivers who were taking consignments of Greek eels to Italy to be consumed in New Year's Eve dinners. The three men died of hypothermia after their lifeboat capsized, tossing them into the sea a short time after they used cellphones to call their families.

Passengers saved from the wreck began arriving in Italy yesterday and the San Giorgio amphibious transport ship brought more survivors to the port of Brindisi last night.

Ute Kilger, a German survivor who arrived in said: "I was lucky, I was saved after nearly 24 hours. This is a long time to fill with hope and with fear that you will die."

Another survivor, Giorgos Stiliaras, said people were having trouble breathing because of the smoke. He added: "There was no proper alert, and I think they did it to avoid creating panic, but it was the smell that got us up, all of us, the smell of burning plastic." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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