Greek Authorities Continue to Mull Cause of Ferry Disaster

Wednesday, September 27, 2000
Greek investigators are still struggling to shed light on why a passenger ferry hit rocks and sank, killing at least 63 people in the country's worst sea tragedy for 35 years.

``This shipwreck was incomprehensible and totally inexplicable,'' said Merchant Marine Minister Christos Papoutsis.

The Express Samina ferry carrying more than 500 passengers hit the islet of Portes and sank shortly before reaching port at the Cycladic holiday island of Paros late on Tuesday.

``How can one not be outraged at a shipwreck that has cost so many lives just a mile and a half from the shore, in an area that any captain sailing in the Aegean is familiar with,'' Papoutsis was quoted as saying.

Investigators said they were baffled by how the ship could have missed a charted islet with a lighthouse.

Coast guard officials said witnesses had testified that some crew members were watching a soccer match between Greece's Panathinaikos and Germany's Hamburg when the ship ran aground.

The Justice Minister ordered a criminal investigation and the public prosecutor on the nearby island of Syros brought charges of ``repeated manslaughter with possible malice'' against those responsible for the accident. But he did not disclose the names of anyone charged.

Five seamen, including the captain, were detained on Paros.

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