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Saturday, 30 September, 2000, 20:39 GMT 21:39 UK
Greece suspends 65 'unsafe' ships
A Grrek priest said prayers for the dead, after the Express Samina sinking
A Greek priest says prayers for the dead
The Greek Government has banned 65 ships from sailing until they meet safety standards.

The move comes after more than 70 people died when an ageing ferry, the Express Samina, sank off the island of Paros on Tuesday.


I went to sleep for a bit, for 10 minutes, because I wasn't feeling well

Captain Vassilis Yannakis
The Merchant Marine ministry said the ships, which include passenger ferries and luxury cruise liners, must improve their standards within 20 days, or have their sailing permits revoked.

Earlier, the Express Samina's captain admitted he was asleep just before his ship hit rocks.

Unsafe

In its statement, the ministry said out of nearly 100 Greek ships obliged to comply with European safety regulations, fewer than a third actually met the standard.

Divers searching for bodies from the sinking of the Express Samina
Divers recovered two more bodies from the wreck on Saturday
A total of 47 island ferries, nine international cruise ships and nine ferries on the Piraeus-Crete line are affected by the ban, which begins at midnight on Sunday.

The ministry said the remaining vessels will make extra trips to cover the shortfall.

Just days after the disaster, another ferry ran aground on the nearby island of Naxos early on Friday morning.

The Express Artemis was stuck for three hours but managed to free itself and all passengers got off safely.

Meanwhile divers, who reached the wreck of the Express Samina for the first time on Friday, found two more bodies inside the vessel on Saturday.

The death toll from the accident could rise further, as rescue crews are unsure how many people were on board when the ferry went down.

Asleep or flirting

The captain and three crew members have appeared in court on the nearby island of Syros, charged with multiple counts of murder.

Captain Yannakis told the court he regretted what had happened:

A ship scours the area near the fatal rocks in search of bodies
A ship scours the area near the fatal rocks
"This is the only thing I can say, as a captain of Greek shipping, I take full responsibility for the victims and I am very sorry for what happened. That's all."

However, in an interview with the Greek newspaper, Eleftherotypia, Captain Vassilis Yannakis admitted that: "I went to sleep for a bit, for 10 minutes, because I wasn't feeling well."

He said he was woken by his first officer and told that the ship had been pushed onto the rocks by the weather.

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See also:

30 Sep 00 | Europe
Greek ferry captain asleep
29 Sep 00 | Europe
Ferry safety questioned
27 Sep 00 | Europe
Ferry survivors' horror tales
27 Sep 00 | Europe
Greek ferry a 'grime-bucket'
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