VIDEO: “Norman Atlantic” towed to Italy. Greek, Italian authorities diverge significantly on figure for “Norman Atlantic” missing

norman3Ninety people are considered missing from the fire-stricken “Norman Atlantic” ferry, according to Bari prosecution authorities, but only 18 according to Greek authorities, Italian news network Tg5 said on Friday.

It added that “some names may have been included in the Italian lists of passengers, perhaps more than once, in a slightly different spelling.”

The ship has been towed amid adverse weather conditions to Brindisi port. One of the prosecutors handling the case, Ettore Cardinali, is going to Brindisi so as to board the ship and ascertain whether there are any deceased in its hold.

The relatives of the 10 passengers of fire-stricken “Norman Atlantic” ferry that are considered missing are expected to fly to Italy later in the day.

Italian authorities have officially notified Greek authorities that they had identified two dead Greek nationals while another 10 persons are considered missing.

The centre of operations in Rome (RCC ROMA) on Thursday officially notified the Search and Rescue Coordination Centre of the Greek Coast Guard that due to the incorrect identification by the Italian authorities, Greek national Georgios Doulis is not considered dead but is included in the passengers list and is among the people on whom there is no information available for the time being.

Shipping ministry officials on Thursday contacted Doulis’ son, who thanked them for their prompt reaction.

Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis issued a call to all port authorities in Greece to assist with accommodation and transportation any relatives of passengers or crew on the “Norman Atlantic”.

Authorities in Greece have also launched an urgent inquiry into the circumstances of the “Norman Atlantic” ferry disaster, it was announced on Friday. The head of the Piraeus public prosecutors’ office has asked the Piraeus Central Port Authority to determine whether the ship was in compliance with safety regulations and whether all required safety precautions to ensure it was fit to sail had been met.

Judicial sources said the prosecutor has asked for an investigation into when the ship inspections took place and whether all fire safety and life-saving standards were met, as well as a copy of the accident report by Italian authorities that inspect the ship and evidence from the Italian authorities’ investigation, given that the ship is now in foreign territory.

On the basis of the Schengen treaty, Italian authorities are obliged to respond to such requests by the Piraeus port authority, while the Pireaus prosecutor may also request some depositions at the end of the process.

The Piraeus prosecutor ordered the urgent preliminary inquiry in connection with two criminal offences, disuption of maritime transport capable of endangering human life and resulting in deaths, and also for arson.

In statements to the ANA-MPA, a representative of ANEK lines, which had chartered the “Norman Atlantic” from the Italian company Visemar di Navigazione SRL, said the Greek shipping line had asked that some Greeks paid by ANEK be included in the crew but that, based on the charter agreement, the Italian company was responsible for safety and crew as a whole.

“Norman Atlantic” in Brindizi

Tug boats hauled the burnt-out hulk of the ferry that caught fire on Sunday off the coast of Greece to a southern Italian port on Friday, opening the way for an investigation into the cause of the blaze that killed at least 11 people.

Listing visibly to starboard, the Norman Atlantic multi-deck car-and-truck ferry was held outside the port of Brindisi as officials decided where it should be moored.

The fire broke out on one of the lower garage levels and left the vessel drifting without power in stormy seas. It took Greek and Italian rescue teams 36 hours to evacuate 477 passengers and crew from the ship amid strong winds.

Most were winched into helicopters from the upper deck of the ship as the blaze raged below, but dozens may still be missing, including migrants not listed on the ship’s manifest, Italian officials have said.

“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,” Giuseppe Volpe, the Italian prosecutor leading the investigation into the cause of the fire, said earlier this week.

Reports of the number of missing have varied widely. The Greek coastguard said on Thursday that 18 are still unaccounted for, while Volpe has said the number may be as high as 98.

In his end-year address, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi praised the rescue effort for having prevented far more deaths and complimented the ship’s captain, Argilio Giacomazzi, for staying aboard the ship until it was evacuated.

But rescued passengers have criticized the ship’s crew for mishandling the emergency and not sounding the fire alarm.

“We tried to do everything possible,” Giacomazzi told television reporters outside his home on Thursday. “I wanted to bring them all home,” he said of the dead and missing.

Italian and Albanian magistrates agreed to impound the ship so the cause of the fire could be investigated.

The Italian-flagged ferry was chartered by Greek ferry operator Anek Lines and was sailing from Patras in western Greece to Ancona in Italy.

Norman Atlantic Captain: We didn’t sound the alarm to avoid a panic

The captain of the Norman Atlantic, Argilio Giacomazzi has testified before an Italian magistrate over his handling of the fire aboard the ship.

In his testimony, which lasted for five and a half hours, the captain maintained that proper procedure was followed at all times.

However he confirmed what has been alleged by many of the rescued passengers: that no fire alarm was sounded even as the blaze was spreading through the ship. This, he maintained, was so as not to cause a panic.

Many passengers have stated that they only became aware of the fire due to smoke pouring into their cabins and filling the ship.

“First we went ahead with an internal alarm among the crew, because due to the size of the fire, we did not want to cause a panic among the passengers. Later, in line with safety protocols we sounded the alarm,”Giacomazzi testified, according to the Italian press.

The captain of the doomed Norman Atlantic faces charges including manslaughter by negligence, and causing a shipwreck through negligence. The owner of the ship Carlo Visentini also faces criminal charges.

Questions have also been raised as to the fire safety equipment on board and the safety protocols in place. The ship was found to have multiple failings by inspectors in Patras only days before the accident.

In an article the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera has stated that the ship may have been overloaded, reporting that it was carrying at least 128 trucks – at least four of which were carrying oil, 90 cars, two buses and a motorcycle. The newspaper suggests that there may have been even more vehicles aboard, exceeding safe limits. The article also suggests that metal parts of the trucks may have been in contact with the hold. Movement caused by the rough weather may have generated sparks which could have been a cause of the blaze.

Reuters / TheToc / ANA-MPA / Russia Today

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