Video: Fire on Greek Ferry Forces Evacuation
Just after midnight on Tuesday, a fire broke out on the vehicle deck of the ferry Eleftherios Venizelos as she was under way from Piraeus to Chania with over 1,000 passengers and crew on board.
A Greek Coast Guard spokesman said in a statement that the crew quickly brought the fire under control, and the master ordered passengers to muster in two stations towards the stern. The vessel returned to Piraeus, escorted by nearby good samaritan vessels and Greek Navy helicopters, and arrived at the pier at 0400 hours. Shoreside fire teams with four fire engines joined the effort to control the blaze, and the Venizelos' passengers disembarked to the pier while the vehicle deck was still burning. According to the shipowner, all aboard departed the ship without incident or injury.
"We climbed [to the deck] immediately but smoke was everywhere on the deck, babies cried, dogs barked, others shouted, others were more calm. The crew tried to reassure us by telling us to be patient," a passenger told SKAI News. Another said that the smoke was intense, and had a smell of burning rubber.
Authorities believe that the fire started on the third vehicle deck in a truck carrying a cargo of plastic.
Vasileios Mattheopoulos, the head of the Piraeus fire department, said in a statement that the cramped conditions on the ferry's vehicle decks and the heavy smoke made the firefighting effort difficult. About 80 trucks and 152 vehicles are stowed on board. Greece's Deputy Minister of Shipping and Island Policy, Nektarios Santorinios, said in a statement that efforts to fully extinguish the last of the fire are under way. He promised a thorough investigation of its causes once the response effort is complete.
Photos taken Wednesday showed that the Venizelos has developed a list to port, and several large tugs are bracing her port side.
On Wednesday, the ferry Blue Galaxy took over the Venizelos' route and embarked many of the passengers whose journeys were disrupted by the fire.