More than 500 people travelling on an Italian ferry have been rescued after it caught fire. The Vincenzo Florio was on its way to Palermo from Naples when the blaze broke out.
While no victims were reported, the passengers, who include 65 children, used life boats to escape. They reached another ferry and coastguard craft which had come to their rescue.
The ferry’s crew stayed to fight the fire. This witness said: ‘‘At the start, they used extinguishers to reach the fire. They gained control of it and the ferry started moving again. But suddenly, the fumes became very black and thick. We couldn’t breathe. The boat was overrun by smoke so they gave the order to lower the lifeboats.’‘
The ferry was some 40 kilometres from Palermo where it is thought a lorry short-circuited and spread flames to other vehicles on the car deck. Two women and three men were taken to hospital where they were treated for shock.
The same boat had caught fire once before on a trip from Palermo to Naples in 2004.