Greek ferry tragedy turns to murder mystery

The rescue operation of passengers by helicopter on Monday from the burning ferry “Norman Atlantic” adrift off Albania Picture: AFP/Getty

Ten passengers dead, dozen unaccounted for and no-one able to say with any certainty how many people were on board the Norman Atlantic when it burst into flames.

A Greek ferry tragedy in the Adriatic appeared to be turning into a murder mystery on Tuesday as a fiasco over the accuracy of the passenger list added to questions over safety systems aboard.

The ill-fated ship claimed two more lives when two Albanian seamen died from injuries sustained when a cable linking their tugboat to the ferry snapped.

With conditions in the eastern Adriatic still extremely rough, Italian authorities decided to try to tow the ferry to port in Albania rather than risk the longer crossing back to Italy.

Amid the uncertainty over the passenger numbers, Italian coastguards and navy helicopters were continuing to scour the waters around the stricken ferry in search of the bodies of nearly 40 people who may or may not have been on the boat when it left the Greek port of Patras on Saturday.

Officially, 437 people who were on board have been accounted for, 38 short of a revised total of passengers and crew released by the ship’s operator ANEK Ferries.

But government ministers in both Greece and Italy have confirmed that there are significant discrepancies between the list released by ANEK and the people saved.

Italian officials have meanwhile acknowledged that the people rescued included an unspecified number of stowaways, including some Afghan nationals, who would not have been on the passenger list.

A prosecutor in the Italian port of Bari was due to outline the terms of a criminal probe into the disaster in which the ship’s Italian owner, ANEK and its Italian captain are all expected to be investigated for suspected manslaughter.

The accounts of passengers evacuated from the ferry after a terrifying 24-hour ordeal have depicted the Norman Atlantic’s crew as being completely unprepared to deal with an emergency…

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