By Lefteris Papadimas
CORFU, Greece -Firefighters battling for a third day a blaze on a ferry sailing from Greece to Italy recovered on Sunday the body of a passenger listed as missing, Greek authorities said.
It is the first reported fatality after rescuers managed to take at least 281 out of 292 passengers and crew to safety from a blaze which broke out on the Italian-flagged Euroferry Olympia early on Friday.
The ferry had been on its way to the Italian port of Brindisi from Igoumenitsa in Greece when it was engulfed by flames off the island of Corfu in the Ionian Sea.
Many of the passengers were truck owners or drivers transporting goods through Europe.
The dead man was found in the cabin of a truck in the ship’s hold and had suffered serious burns, a fire brigade official said.
A total of 10 people, all Bulgarian, Turkish and Greek nationals, are still missing, according to the coastguard.
Earlier on Sunday rescue teams found a survivor, a man from Belarus, at the stern of the ferry, according to the coastguard, reviving hopes that other missing passengers could still be found alive.
Firefighters have been trying for days to contain the fire and cool scorching temperatures on the 183-metre (600 ft) ship to allow emergency crews to board and rescue any survivors.
The cause of the blaze is still being investigated and a prosecutor has launched an inquiry, according to coastguard officials.
Reuters footage showed rescuers climbing a stepladder to the vessel after a tug boat towed it closer to the shore.
Aerial footage released by the Greek coastguard on Friday showed rows of burnt trucks on the blackened deck after flames swept through the ship. The ferry was carrying 153 vehicles, the company said.
A group of truck drivers who survived the ordeal arrived back in Bulgaria in the early hours of Sunday.
“Once we were in the boats we saw the huge flames. Everything burned, the losses are big, but I am glad we are alive and we will see our families,” truck driver Rumen Cholakov told Bulgarian Nova TV.
(Additional reporting by Stamos Prousalis in Corfu, Angeliki Koutantou in Athens and Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia; Writing by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Jan Harvey)