MS Norman Atlantic is a roll-on/roll-off passenger (ROPAX) ferry owned by the Italian ferry company Visemar di Navigazione. The ferry was chartered by ANEK Lines from December 2014. On 28 December 2014, she caught fire in the Strait of Otranto, in the Adriatic Sea.
The bodies of nine victims were recovered from the sea, while nineteen others remain missing.
Additionally, two crewmembers of the Albanian tug Iliria were killed during the salvage operations on 30 December.
According to ANEK Lines, the total number of passengers and crew, based on the ship's manifest, was 475. As of 31 December, reports indicate that 499 people were on board the ferry, including 55 crew members; excluding possible stowaways.
On 28 December 2014, Norman Atlantic caught fire in the Strait of Otranto, on a ferry run from Patras to Ancona. A fire broke out on the car deck just before 6:00 am local time, half an hour after leaving port of Igoumenitsa, Greece, an intermediate stop, when she was 44 nautical miles (81 km) northwest of the island of Corfu, 33 nautical miles (61 km) northwest of the island of Othonoi. At the time she was carrying 222 vehicles, 487 passengers, and 55 crew. The heat from the fire permeated the entire ship, even starting to melt people's shoes on the reception deck. The incident happened in Greek territorial waters but with night closing in, the ship started drifting towards Albania. There were gale-force winds and lashing rain.
Passengers assert that the order to abandon ship was not given until four hours after the fire had started. Despite their cabins filling with smoke, no alarm had sounded. They also state that the crew of Norman Atlantic gave them little assistance. One group of 49 managed to escape in a lifeboat, but others were prevented from doing so as two of the four lifeboats were destroyed by the fire. The lifeboats had a capacity of 160 people each. Survivors described "scenes from hell" on board the burning ship, with the ship's crew overwhelmed by the crisis and jungle law prevailing rather than an orderly evacuation.
Those in the lifeboat were rescued by the Singapore-registered container ship Spirit of Piraeus and landed at Bari, Italy.
Several liferafts were also launched, but some of them capsized, causing the deaths by drowning or hypothermia of several occupants.The merchant ship Aby Jeannette rescued 39 people from Norman Atlantic's liferafts and brought them to Taranto, and the tanker Genmar Argus rescued a Norman Atlantic crewmember from the sea. Other people in the sea or in the rafts were rescued by helicopters.
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