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The BBC's Louise Bevan
"Dozens perished and others are still missing"
 real 56k

Survivor, Michael Beaten
"I got smashed on the head by a piece of metal"
 real 28k

Lieutenant John Karageorgolos, Greek Coastguard
"The conditions at sea are quite rough"
 real 28k

Commander Harry Parker, British rescue team
"It was pitch black with water washing over the rocks"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 27 September, 2000, 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK
Dozens die in Greek ferry disaster
Survivors were treated on board HMS Invincible
Survivors were treated on board HMS Invincible
A big rescue operation is under way in the Aegean Sea for survivors from a Greek ferry that hit a rocky outcrop off the island of Paros in gale force winds.

The Greek Coast Guard says 40 people have been confirmed dead after the Express Samina hit the Portes rocks, about three kilometres (two miles) from Paros. Dozens more are still missing.

More than 400 survivors - many of them foreign holidaymakers - were rescued and taken to a health centre on Paros.

woman
Worried relatives wait for news

An English hotelier helping in the rescue, Nick Barwis, said those on board the ferry included UK citizens, Russians, Germans, Italians, Australians, South Africans and local Greeks.

The British navy joined local fishing boats, pleasure craft and coastguard vessels in the rescue effort, involving hundreds of volunteers.

It has not been officially confirmed that the ferry has sunk, but survivors said it went down "like the Titanic".

The 24-year-old ferry, which ran aground at about 2230 (1930 GMT), was carrying 447 passengers and 64 crew.

Greek aircraft dropped flares in the sea to help rescuers find survivors. A helicopter from the Royal Navy's HMS Invincible was also involved in the rescue.


There were still lots of people on the ship... I could hear people screaming in the distance

Andreas Spanos, survivor

Survivors said the ferry hit the rocks at full speed and listed in two to three minutes, giving many people no time to don lifejackets.

Mr Barwis said some survivors were badly injured and there were many cases of hypothermia.

He told the BBC that all the survivors appeared to have jumped from the ferry, as there was no time to launch lifeboats.

Heavy seas

Mr Barwis said the weather conditions at the time were "extremely rough".

Doctors from neighbouring islands were called to Paros and a special medical team was being flown in from Athens.


The survivors included a woman in labour, and many others had cuts and bruises, Mr Barwis said.

The ferry had sailed from Piraeus, west of the capital, Athens, at about 1400 GMT and was approaching the main port of Paros when it foundered.

It was later due to have sailed to the islands of Naxos, Samos, Ikaria, Patmos and Lipsi.

Panic

"The vessel started listing and there was panic," said Andreas Spanos, a passenger on the Express Samina.

"Lots of people jumped into the sea. I jumped into the sea. I knew the vessel was going to sink once it started listing.

"There were still lots of people on the ship. It wasn't wavy, but the sea was cold. I could hear people screaming in the distance," he said.

"A fishing boat picked me up and brought me to shore on Paros, but there were old ladies and young children on board. I don't know what happened to these people."

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See also:

27 Sep 00 | Europe
Ferry survivors' horror tales
02 Nov 99 | Europe
Stowaways die in ferry fire
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