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The BBC's Paul Adams on the island of Paros
"It's thought there could be many bodies still aboard"
 real 56k

The BBC's Brian Baron on the Island of Paros
"It's 48 hours since the Express Samina on autopilot smashed into rocks at high speed"
 real 56k

Thursday, 28 September, 2000, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Greek ferry crew on murder charges
The search for survivors continues
The search for survivors continues
The captain and four crew members of a Greek ferry that sank killing at least 64 people have been charged with multiple counts of murder, according to prosecutors.

The investigation is focusing on claims that the ship, carrying about 530 passengers, was apparently on automatic pilot minutes before striking a clearly-marked rocky outcrop off the island of Paros on Tuesday night.

A number of passengers have accused the crew of negligence - some witnesses said the crew were busy watching the Panathinaikos-Hamburg football match on television when the ship ran aground.

But crew members have been defending themselves against allegations they left passengers to fend for themselves.

At least 473 people have been rescued so far, but hopes of finding more survivors from the disaster are fading, nearly two days after the ferry sank.

Eight Greeks and four Australians are still reported to be missing.

Search for bodies

Divers have been searching the wreck of the Express Samina for bodies of victims trapped in their cabins or on the ferry's car deck.

But search efforts have been hampered by high winds and strong waves.

Greek port authority police said the divers were also trying to protect the area from any pollution caused by fuel escaping from the wreck.

Despite the rough weather conditions, Greek army helicopters and navy vessels, helicopters from Britain's HMS Invincible and local fishermen are continuing to help the coastguard in the search.

The Express Samina, which is lying on the seabed at a depth of 38 metres, was travelling at almost full speed, about 15 nautical mph, when it ran into rocks off Paros.

They sliced through the underside of the vessel, virtually cutting it in half.

Angry crew

Some survivors said there was no announcement to abandon ship forcing them to look for life jackets themselves or jump into dark choppy waters without them.

Debris has been washed up on the rocks
Debris has been washed up on the rocks
"It's not true that we abandoned ship first, we risked our lives to help people," one angry seaman told Greek television.

"We were handing lifejackets to people until the last minute," another said.

"Some of us died as well."

At least three seamen have been identified among the dead.

A statement from ferry operators Minoan Flying Dolphins, a subsidiary of Minoan Lines, said on Wednesday that the captain had ordered passengers and crew to abandon ship.


Greek newspapers were quick to condemn the crew of the vessel in their Thursday editions.

In a scathing editorial, the daily Kathimerini said: "The captain was watching the Panathaikos match, even the officers, the crew was incapable of handling the crisis and the boat, 34 years old, one of the most pathetic in the Greek fleet, was carried onto rocks that were nevertheless clearly lit up."

Kathimerini also attacked the ship's owners for trying to distance themselves from responsibility for the disaster, while a number of other papers talked, as the Greek Government has, of "criminal negligence".

The Athens News pointed the finger at the ship's captain, alleging that he had crashed two other vessels under his command.

However the newspaper also claimed that an engineer and former employee of Minoan Flying Dolphins had asked the harbour authorities to inspect the ferry the day before its scheduled departure on Monday.

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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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