Hundreds rescued after ferry sailing from Greece to Italy catches fire

Dramatic footage shows the ferry engulfed in flames

More than 280 people have been evacuated from a ferry that caught fire overnight in north-western Greece while heading to southern Italy.

A crew member and two passengers were hospitalised with breathing difficulties.

There were no initial reports of anyone missing, but a full check of passenger and crew member lists was expected to take several hours, the Greek coast guard said.

The rescued passengers were being transported to Corfu.

Hundreds of passengers were rescued from the ferry and wrapped in blankets

“This is a difficult operation and we must remain cautious. The final accounting of the people on board will take place on Corfu when everyone rescued is assembled there,” Greek Deputy Minister for Shipping Costas Katsafados told state-run ERT television.

The pre-dawn fire broke out on Friday on the Italy-flagged Euroferry Olympia shortly after it left the port of Igoumenitsa in north-west Greece.

The 183-meter (600-foot) ferry, which was built in 1995, was heading for the Italian port of Brindisi with 239 passengers and 51 crew members on board.

Hundreds were rescued and at least one person was reported injured. Credit: AP

The ferry was traveling in the Ionian Sea near the small Greek island of Ereikousa, around nine miles north of the island of Corfu, when the fire started.

Greek truck driver Giorgos Parlantzas, one of the rescued passengers, recounted what took place on the Euroferry Olympia: “I was sleeping in my cabin when they came to alert us. I grabbed my ID and headed for the deck where people were being assembled. It must have been about 3am or 4 am. And we were put onto boats."

Images from local television channels of the ferry indicated the fire was extensive.

Six boats from Greece’s coast guard and navy participated in the rescue along with four helicopters, an Italian customs inspection boat and several passing vessels, senior coast guard official Nikos Lagadianos said.

It is not yet known what sparked the fire.