28 December 2014
Last updated at 15:02
Passengers have made desperate calls for a speedy rescue
Ships and helicopters are taking part in a major rescue operation after an Italian ferry carrying 478 people caught fire around 40 nautical miles north-west of Corfu.
The Norman Atlantic was travelling from Patras in Greece to Ancona in Italy.
Choppy seas and strong winds are hampering the rescue. Early reports that it was tilting have been denied.
There are no reports of casualties. Greek and Italian officials say 131 people have been rescued.
Italian media say the fire broke out on the ferry’s car deck early on Sunday morning.
Around 35 passengers of those rescued were transferred to a nearby Greek ferry by lifeboat, Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said.
“This is a complicated rescue mission… The visibility is poor and the weather conditions are difficult, but we are confident because there are a good number of ships in the area,” he said.
Some of the passengers were said to have taken to life boats
Those who have managed to leave the ferry face the double challenge of high winds and cold water
Italian and Albanian teams are also taking part in the rescue operation.
One of the passengers told Greek TV station Mega: “Our shoes started being submerged as we were in the reception area. We are burning and sinking with no-one able to rescue us. Please help us, do not leave us alone.”
Ferries are an important mode of transport between Greece’s hundreds of islands as well as neighbouring countries.
The Norman Atlantic is one of many ferries which ply the Greece-Italy route
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