Seven Dead on Blazing Ferry Norman Atlantic, All Survivors RescuedIncidents | December 29, 2014, Monday // 19:00| views
A handout image provided by the Italian Navy shows the Norman Atlantic ferry that caught fire on Sunday in the Adriatic Sea, 29 December 2014. According to the Italian Coast Guard, the death toll has risen to seven people. Photo EPA/BGNES
Seven people have lost their lives as a result of the fire that has raged on the Norman Atlantic ferry since Sunday morning, the Italian Coast Guard said on Monday.
The evacuation of all people aboard the burning ship is now complete. More than 400 passengers and crew have been rescued despite difficult weather conditions including strong winds and rough seas.
The captain of the Norman Atlantic, Argilio Giacomazzi, was the last to abandon ship on Monday, nearly 36 hours after sending out a distress signal.
The 26,900-tonne Italian-flagged ferry caught fire in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Corfu before dawn on Sunday while sailing from Patras in Greece to Ancona in Italy.
One of the victims, a Greek man, died when he tried to jump ship to escape the fire that started on one of the car decks. Another six bodies have been recovered from the water. The nationality of those dead was not immediately known.
The 422 passengers and 56 crew members had to spend hours in driving rain on the top deck where they had found refuge from the flames and smoke while the vessel was adrift in freezing temperatures between Albania and Italy.
Helicopters flew dozens of rescue sorties in strong winds overnight, plucking people off the burning ferry. Most of those rescued were transferred to nearby ships but some were taken directly to hospital.
Italy has opened a criminal investigation into the disaster to find out how the fire started and how it was able to spread.
According to Greek media reports, the flames may have spread quickly because of vats of olive oil in trucks catching fire.
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