Rescue helicopters evacuating two-three passengers at a time. C-130 in Lecce to pick up evacuees

299 people still onboard – 178 rescued so far – One dead

A Greek Air Force C-130 is in Lecce airport, ready to receive shipwrecked Greeks from Norman Atlantic.


Meanwhile, the horror continues.


According to Greek government sources, the rescue will take place first, and the towing will then follow to either an Italian or Albanian port. At 21.30 pm, two helicopters began rescue attempts, a Greek Super Puma and an Italian Agusta, while the rescue is also aided with watercraft, since weather permits it. After 23.00, the rescue operation was reinforced by two Italian helicopters. The people on board have now gone to the fore bridge where their rescue can only be performed by air.


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Statements from the first evacuees

The following is the testimony of the shocked Ms. Athens, which was given a few minutes a go in SKAI TV: “I was with three others on board, now we’re all okay. At 6:30 in the morning, and while we were sleeping, we felt a strange smell in the cabin, but no alarm had run. Our cabin was on the 6th level. We opened the door and saw a lot of smoke down the corridor. The floor was red and burning! The alarm sounded much much later. The crew did not help us. While we were trying to climb the ladder, they gave us life jackets and we entered the raft. Inside the boat, we were 40 to 50 people, including young children. Within fifteen minutes, we had abandoned the ship. Panic prevailed because the people did not know what was happening. Did not know where to go”.   She also stated that the fire quickly went out of control. “The crew was trying to put it out while it was reaching the fourth level. While we were leaving, we were walking on burning floors. We saw the ship on fire as we drifted away on the life raft”   Mr. Fotis Tsantakidis, one of the survivors, spoke to MEGA channel and stated that the fire broke out simultaneously in 2-3 points! The survivor stated: “We heard the burst of car tires, explosions. There was no smoke alarm. Smoke was coming into the cabin. There was no moderation. There was no coordination”. Referring to what happened to the boat which he entered: “Our life boat’s engine gave out and we were smashing against the ship. The weather was very bad. It was certainly 10 on the Beaufort scale. We managed to find ourselves on the side of Spirit of Piraeus and climbed up a ladder. Everyone from our life boat was rescued. Inside were women and children, and a priest who fell overboard, but they saved him”.

Shocking statement to

One of the passengers, Nikos Papatheodosiou, describes from Norman Atlantic the dramatic situation to “I don’t know where to hold on from, the ship is inclined, I can’t breathe from the smoke , help us, everyone has deserted us” was shouting desperate down the phone. The passengers give a brutal battle against raging winds and flames as the night approaches. Helicopters of the Italian armed forces and a Super Puma of the Greek Air Force are trying to transfer hundreds of passengers from the deck of the Norman Atlantic to sail ships, but their efforts were hampered by extreme weather conditions.  


Problems identified during inspection


Serious remarks for leaks, life-saving gear and emergency lighting of the passenger ferry Norman Atlantic were made by port authorities in Patras, after the routine ship inspection on December 19th.   Port authorities had given the shipping company fifteen days to correct the problems.   Among other deficiencies, problems were identified in the mechanisms of closing watertight doors that obviously affect the ship in emergency situations and had found that there was no clear plan for managing rescue operations on the ship.   As shown in the document published by, port control revealed deficiencies in the ship’s emergency systems. Inspectors noted a lack in emergency lighting and reported a lack of sealing mechanisms on watertight doors.





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