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The BBC's Paul Adams
"After the chaos and drama of yesterday, the rescue operation is over"
 real 56k

Thursday, 28 September, 2000, 06:58 GMT 07:58 UK
Greek ferry search resumes
A grief-stricken relative waits for news of his son
A grief-stricken father waits for news of his son
The search for victims of the sunken Greek ferry, Express Samina, has resumed after being suspended on Wednesday night because of gale force winds.

At least 60 people, including children, are known to have died when the ferry went down on Tuesday evening, off the resort island of Paros. More than 450 passengers have been rescued.

A resuce helicopter searches the rocks near where the ferry sank
A rescue helicopter searches the rocks
But after two chilly nights hopes of finding survivors are fading.

The Greek authorities have detained the captain and several crew members and have ordered a criminal inquiry into the tragedy, which occurred when the vessel hit a clearly-marked rocky outcrop in rough seas.

A number of passengers have accused the crew of negligence - one said they were busy watching football on television when the ship ran aground.

Divers

The waters off Paros remain choppy and the job of retrieving bodies and wreckage will be hazardous.

Teams of divers, some of them volunteers, are waiting for a chance to search the wreck of the ferry, which went down in heavy seas about three kilometres (two miles) off Paros.

It is thought there may be bodies trapped inside.

Life saving equipment was washed up on shore
Life-saving equipment was washed up on shore
It is not clear how many people were on board. Greek authorities initially said it was carrying about 530 passengers and crew.

But it is possible there were more people on board because a number of passengers joined at the last minute and were not registered.

Throughout Tuesday night and Wednesday, Greek coastguards, backed by fishermen and passing British warships, combed the waters in the area.

Rescuers pulled survivors and victims' bodies from the sea before transferring them to the island.

Praise and criticism

Hundreds of people have spent the day in hospital, while others crowded into the island's tiny port.


There they have been describing the night of terror when they clutched life vests and floating debris to stay afloat. Many have praised the fishermen who came to their rescue.

But some survivors have also expressed anger at what they described as the crew's failure to help passengers as the ferry sank and at the lack of assistance since survivors came ashore.

Greek Justice Minister Michalist Stathopoulos told the country's parliament there were "serious signs of criminal negligence".

Later, he told a Greek radio station that it was clear that those in charge were not at their place at the helm when the ferry sped towards the Portes rocks.

Safety concerns

Coastguards are baffled as to why the disaster happened as the rocks are well marked on nautical maps of the area and lit by a navigation light.

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The BBC's Brian Barron in Paros says questions have been raised about the safety procedures aboard the ferry and about the Greek Government's ability to implement safety checks.

The state of the 34-year-old ferry has already been criticised. One British guide book, Greek Island Hopping, described the vessel as a "grime bucket" and advised tourists to avoid it.

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

The 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.

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See also:

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