On December 23, the 220 meter long passenger cruise ship Costa Neoclassica caught fire while en route to Aqaba. The blaze started in the vessel’s smokestack, but was quickly extinguished by the crew. The vessel was able to continue under its own power to Aqaba. An inspection in port found damage was limited to the external portion of the funnel. No reports of injuries or pollution released. The Costa Neoclassiaca was able to leave port for a voyage to Mauritius.
The 82 meter long general cargo ship Mercy God ran aground in the Aegean Sea off Bozcaada Island, Turkey. The cargo vessel had been at anchor when storms caused the anchor to drag and the vessel was blown ashore. Tugs were dispatched and the vessel was refloated and taken to a nearby anchorage. No reports of injuries, damage or pollution.
There is still some confusion about how many survivors were rescued and how many are still missing from the ro-ro ferry Norman Atlantic. Authorities stated that 400 people were rescued from the ferry, but some of those rescued were not on the vessel’s passenger list. Some news agencies report that could be upwards to 38 people still missing and could have perished when smoke and flames trapped them below deck.
Reports do confirm that a lifeboat was launched with 49 persons which was picked up by the cargo ship Spirit of Piraeus. The vessel arrived in Bari with the survivors. Reports state some were taken to hospital for treatment for hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning and burns.
Reports state the death toll from the fire reached 10 people as nine bodies were recovered from the sea.
Survivors have made the following statements to the press about the incident:
- “Everyone there was trampling on each other to get into the helicopter” – Christos Perlis told AP
- “Our feet were buring and from the feet up we were soaked” – Christos Perlis told AP
- “First children, then women and then men. But the men, they started hitting us so they could get on first.” – Christos Perlis told AP
- “There was no queue or order. No respect was shown for children.” – Irene Varsioti
- “We were soaked from the water they doused to extinguish the fire. Our feet froze. People were forced to move closer to the fire to keep warm…We waited outside for hours.” – Aylin Akamac
- “We experienced the Titanic. The only thing missing was that we didn’t sink” – Saadet Bayhan
- “It was hell” – Dimitra Theodossiou
- “We were asleep when the smoke entered out cabins. Flames and smoke were engulfing people from all sides” – Robert Mane