Eleven Immigrants Killed In Ferry Fire

Friday, November 05, 1999
At least 11 illegal immigrants died in a fire last Monday on an Italy-bound Greek ferry with more than 400 people aboard, Merchant Marine Ministry officials said. They said the body of a man, believed to be another Kurd immigrant, was found by firefighters in the back of a truck in the garage where a fire broke out. "We also found two passports but have not verified if they belonged to stowaways or regular passengers," one official said. Like 10 others - eight men and two women - found dead in the garage level of the Superfast 3 ferry, the latest victim appeared to have suffocated from smoke. All 307 passengers and most of the 106 crew were smoothly evacuated by coastguard vessels and nearby civilian ships when the fire was spotted shortly after sailing from Patras for the Italian port of Ancona. Authorities announced there were no casualties. But when firemen inspected the damage on Tuesday they discovered dead bodies -- believed to be stowaways hiding in the garage. Hundreds of Kurds gathered at the port of Patras, where the bodies were transported late last Tuesday, to hold an overnight vigil. They shouted slogans and waved fists in the air, protesting their compatriots' deaths. Greece is a transit point for illegal immigrants from Asia and the Middle East, who enter the country and seek to move on to other European Union destinations. Many pay boat owners thousands of dollars to bring them from the Turkish coast to the Greek islands and others sneak through Greece's northern borders. Five Iraqi Kurds were killed and 10 injured in the early hours of Sunday when they walked into a Greek minefield near the northern Evros river that divides Greece and Turkey. More than 30 immigrants have died and another 30 have been injured since 1993 in the minefields near Greek borders, police said. Almost 100 have drowned while trying to cross over by sea. Greek authorities have said they believed the fire on Superfast 3 started on one of more than 100 trucks aboard the ferry. They speculated that it was either started by a cigarette or by the immigrants themselves trying to heat water or food. There was no available estimate of the extent of the ship's damage. - (Reuters)

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