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The BBC's Robert Hall
"Reports of crew negligence are being investigated"
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Peter Millett from the British mission in Athens
"The latest official figure is 59 killed"
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Wednesday, 27 September, 2000, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Gales hamper Greek ferry rescue
Survivors were treated on board HMS Invincible
Survivors were treated on board HMS Invincible
Gale-force winds are continuing to hamper efforts to rescue survivors from a Greek night ferry which sank in the Aegean Sea.

The Greek authorities say at least 62 people, including children, are now known to have died in the disaster which took place about three kilometres (two miles) off the resort island of Paros.

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Of about 530 passengers and crew aboard the Express Samina - which went down in heavy seas after hitting clearly-marked rocks off the island - more than 450 have been rescued. Twenty-nine are still missing.

The Greek Government has announced an investigation into the tragedy, alleging "criminal negligence".

Five of the ship's officers, including the captain, Vassilis Yannakis, have been detained.

A huge rescue operation has been launched, with army helicopters flying out of Athens airport all morning.


Eyewitnesses said the ferry - which went down about 2230 (1930 GMT) on Tuesday - sank almost immediately, giving people very little chance to don life jackets.

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

Andreas Spanos, survivor
"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.

He said there had still been lots of people on board when he left the ship, mainly old ladies and young children.

"It wasn't wavy, but the sea was cold. I could hear people screaming in the distance," he said.

Worried relatives wait for news
An English hotelier helping in the rescue, Nick 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.

The survivors included a woman in labour, Mr Barwis said. Local TV reports later said she had been flown to an Athens hospital and was in a satisfactory condition.

Navy helps out

A British naval vessel, the HMS Liverpool, was the first to arrive at the scene of the accident. It has since been joined by the HMS Invincible, which has been using three of its own helicopters to rescue survivors.

Hundreds of local volunteers manning fishing boats and pleasure craft have joined and in the rescue effort.

Survivors - many of them foreign holidaymakers - have already been taken to a health centre on Paros.

Besides Greeks, those on board the ferry are thought to include UK citizens, Russians, Germans, Italians, Australians and South Africans.

The British Embassy in Athens says it has spoken to 12 British survivors, and that no Britons are among those known to have died.

Two Britons were among those winched to safety after they were found clinging to rocks.

Criminal probe

Coastguards are reported to be baffled as to why the accident happened.

They say the rocky outcrop is well marked on nautical maps of the area and illuminated by a navigation light.

The 34-year-old Express Samina - owned by Minoan Flying Dolphins, a subsidiary of Minoan Lines - was en route from Piraeus and was due to have sailed on to the islands of Naxos, Samos, Ikaria, Patmos and Lipsi.

Greek Justice Minister Michalis Stathopoulos told parliament the government investigation would cover the ship's owners and operators, as well as those in charge of the vessel at the time.

A popular tourist guide, Greek Island Hopping, warns travellers not to use the Express Samina, which it describes as a "grime bucket... definitely to be avoided".

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27 Sep 00 | Europe
Ferry survivors' horror tales
27 Sep 00 | Europe
Greek ferry a 'grime-bucket'
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