Fourteen people remain missing, including two people who were trapped in the car port, after a ferry carrying tourists and truck drivers burst into flames on the Adriatic Sea early Friday morning, hours before it was expected to make landfall in southern Italy.
Police have confirmed that 14 people—including undocumented passengers in vehicles on the car deck as well as some people who were sleeping in their cars—are still missing. The fire was brought under control by midday, and the charred carcass was visible from the tourist island of Corfu, Greece. Of the 278 people brought onshore, several suffered burns on their feet and extremities, either from standing on the hot deck or getting into the lifeboats. Three people have been hospitalized with injuries including difficulty breathing from smoke inhalation. Several of the passengers were long-haul truck drivers whose vehicles were destroyed in the fire.
The incident is reminiscent of a 2017 ferry disaster in the Adriatic in which 31 people who were hiding in cars on the Norman Atlantic ferry burned to death after rough seas caused friction between tall semi-trucks and the car deck ceiling, sparking a similar fire. Many of those victims were never identified.
Friday’s fire engulfed the Euroferry Olimpia, run by Grimaldi Lines, which was carrying 288 known passengers and crew members when a fire started in the lower car deck as it passed about 10 miles from Corfu.
Passengers onboard said the entire ship was engulfed in flames within minutes as semi-trucks carrying fuel and flammable goods ignited one by one. “There were very high flames, there was panic on board,” said a spokesperson for Italy’s Coast Guard, which responded to the disaster.
The captain of the ship called for an immediate evacuation via the ferry’s lifeboats and went door-to-door to make sure all passengers were awake. Several children were among the more than 288 people who were rescued.
The Adriatic inferno comes as another ferry—one carrying luxury cars—continues to burn out of control adrift in the Atlantic Ocean after catching fire Wednesday. The 22 crew members of the 656 foot-long Felicity Ace cargo ship were rescued by the Portuguese Navy. The ship was carrying hundreds of Porsche, Lamborghini, Audi, and Volkswagen vehicles from Germany destined for Rhode Island.
Authorities are letting the fire burn out before attempting to board the ship, which is currently crew-less.