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BARI, Italy (AP) — A man who was on board the burning Greek ferry says when one of the rescue helicopters arrived people began to panic and trampled each other.
Helicopters today defied high winds and stormy seas to evacuate hundreds of passengers and staff from the ferry that caught fire off Albania. Seven people were killed.
Christos Perlis says he and another man tried to impose order, and told everyone that children and then women would be rescued first. But, he says, some men starting hitting him so that they could leave first. Perlis says he reached safety after jumping in a helicopter basket carrying a girl.
Perlis says the fire alarm wasn't sounded until most passengers, alerted by the smoke in their cabins, had gone outside. He says there were no crew members in sight to direct them.
Perlis says passengers had to deal with the searing temperatures of the ship's floors, and the driving rain outside. He says, "Our feet were burning, and from the feet up we were soaked."
A Turkish woman, speaking to a TV station in Turkey, confirms that there were no fire alarms, and that passengers woke each other up. She says, "We experienced the Titanic. The only thing missing was that we didn't sink."
Another rescued Turkish passenger, speaking from a hospital, tells a Turkish news agency that there were only three lifeboats on the ferry. She says, "Those who got out first got on the lifeboats," while others had to wait.
014-c-16-(Elena Becatoros (ELH'-uh-nuh behk-uh-TOH'-rohs, AP correspondent)-"from the ferry"-AP correspondent Elena Becatoros reports some some survivors of the burning ferry have arrived in Italy. (29 Dec 2014)
<<CUT *014 (12/29/14)££ 00:16 "from the ferry"
041-a-05-(Dr. Hercules Haralambides (hahr-uh-lahm-BEE'-dehs), president, Port Authority of Brindisi, with reporters Sunday)-"100 kilometers north"-Brindisi Port Authority President Dr. Hercules Haralambides says the ferry is being escorted to an Italian port. (29 Dec 2014)
<<CUT *041 (12/29/14)££ 00:05 "100 kilometers north"
APPHOTO XBA222: Rescuers assist a passenger of the Italian-flagged Norman Atlantic, that caught fire in the Adriatic Sea, in the harbor of Bari, southern Italy, Monday, Dec. 29, 2014. A ferry carrying nearly 500 people caught fire off the Greek island of Corfu early Sunday, trapping passengers on the top decks as gale-force winds and choppy seas hampered the evacuation. Greek and Italian rescue helicopters and vessels struggled to reach the stricken ferry, with nearby merchant ships lining up to form a wall against the raging gusts. (AP Photo/Luigi Mistrulli) (29 Dec 2014)
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APPHOTO XAG106: In this image released by the Italian Navy, passengers and crew of the Italian-flagged Norman Atlantic, that caught fire in the Adriatic Sea, are rescued from the Italian Navy ship San Giorgio, Monday, Dec. 29, 2014. A cargo ship with 49 people evacuated from a Greek ferry that caught fire in the Adriatic Sea arrived in the Italian port of Bari on Monday, the first big group to reach land. More than 160 people remained trapped on the smoke-filled vessel adrift in frigid temperatures and rough seas between Italy and Albania. One person was killed in the risky rescue operation and two others were injured as Italian and Greek rescue ships and helicopters worked through the night plucking passengers off the stricken vessel and bringing them to safety aboard the 10 or so mercantile ships nearby that were summoned to help. (AP Photo/Italian Navy, ho) (29 Dec 2014)
<<APPHOTO XAG106 (12/29/14)££
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