Update 3 p.m. EST: More than 400 people were evacuated from a ferry that caught fire off the coast of Greece. Reuters reported 10 people died in the disaster.
Update 2:30 p.m. EST: Rescue teams Monday removed the remaining people trapped on a car ferry that caught fire off the Adriatic coast of Greece, Reuters reported. Eight people died in the 36-hour drama and officials fear others are missing.
Survivors were lifted from the deck by Greek and Italian helicopters. The incident began Sunday afternoon for the 478 passengers and crew aboard.
"It was hell," Dimitra Theodossiou, a Greek soprano opera singer, told Italy's la Repubblica newspaper.
Update 6:08 a.m. EST: The death toll from the Norman Atlantic ferry fire, which began early Sunday in the Adriatic Sea between Albania and Italy has increased to five, Nikos Lagadianos, a spokesman for the Greek coast guard said Monday, according to The Associated Press.
Authorities reportedly said that 407 people have been rescued so far while over 60 others are awaiting rescue amid freezing temperatures off the Greek island of Corfu.
Hundreds of passengers and crew are desperately awaiting evacuation from a ferry that caught fire off the coast of Greece in the Adriatic Sea early on Sunday, as extreme weather conditions continued to hamper the rescue operations. At least one person had died and two were injured, while 221 of the 478 on board have been evacuated, the Italian coast guard said, according to CNN.
Passengers on board the Italian-flagged ferry, named Norman Atlantic, are "dying of cold and suffocating from the smoke," one Greek man told Italian state broadcaster RAI TV, according to CNN. Authorities reportedly said that 257 people were still on board, including the captain of the ferry. The Italian Navy reportedly said that medical professionals were being lowered onto the ferry early Monday, as reports surfaced of some passengers suffering from smoke inhalation and hypothermia.
A fire had broken out in the ferry’s parking area, which held more than 200 cars, as the vessel was traveling about 50 miles northwest of Greek island of Corfu in the early hours of Sunday. The ferry was sailing from the Greek port of Patras to Ancona in central Italy.
The Italian coast guard reportedly said that the fire on board had been partially brought under control, while the vessel was still covered in dense smoke. Officials also said that the ship will probably be towed to either Otranto or Brindisi off the coast of Adriatic Sea in the southeastern part of Italy. However, an Italian navy official said that it was yet to be decided whether the ferry would be taken to Italy or Albania, according to Reuters. The man who died during the rescue operation was airlifted to Brindisi, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
Greek Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said that 10 merchant ships were assisting the rescue efforts in the area, according to AP.
"It will be a very difficult night and I hope that everything will go well and we will rescue all passengers and all crew members," Varvitsiotis reportedly said. "This is a complicated rescue mission... The visibility is poor and the weather conditions are difficult, but we are confident because there are a good number of ships in the area."
Earlier, Nikos Lagkadianos, a spokesperson for the Greek coast guard, reportedly said that the heavy rain hindering the rescue operations had, in fact, helped in controlling the fire.
Authorities reportedly said that most of those on board the ferry were Greek, while the rest hailed from other countries including Italy, Turkey, Albania and Germany.