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212 survivors from gutted Italian ferry join families

212 survivors from gutted Italian ferry join families

Rome: A total of 212 people rescued from the Italian-flagged Norman Atlantic ferry landed at the port of Brindisi in southern Italy Tuesday night, Italy's navy said Wednesday.

The survivors disembarked from military vessel San Giorgio, which also carried the bodies of five victims of the blaze that broke out on the ferry early Sunday morning, Xinhua reported.

At least 11 people died in the blaze or during evacuation, and 427 people were rescued.

All 212 survivors who arrived in Brindisi were in good condition, although tired and shocked, and were given blankets and food after embracing relatives at the port, according to Italian authorities.

All of them were identified and also briefly questioned, authorities added.

Captain of the ferry Argilio Giacomazzi was among the people who arrived in Brindisi, after staying on board of the Norman Atlantic to see the 36-hour-long salvage operation through.

Prosecutors questioned him for some five hours at the harbour's offices in order to reconstruct what happened immediately after the fire erupted, according to Italian media.

The captain assured that "all emergency procedures were properly and timely implemented", his lawyer said.

Giacomazzi was investigated for the crimes of shipwreck, multiple manslaughter and negligent injury, together with the Italian owner of the ferry, Carlo Visentini.

Some 39 other survivors are still expected at the southern port of Taranto later Wednesday. Their return was planned for Tuesday, but hampered by bad sea conditions, the coast guard said.

The wreck of the Norman Atlantic is also due to arrive at the Brindisi port during the day, after Italian prosecutors ordered the ferry to be taken to Italy for the criminal probe.

Two Albanian sailors died during an operation to attach the ship Tuesday, after being hit by a rope.

The Norman Atlantic, chartered by Greek shipping firm ANEK Lines, was sailing from Greece to Italy when a fire broke out in one of the garages Sunday morning.

Italy, Greece, and Albania joined up in the efforts to evacuate all passengers. Italy took the lead in the operation, which was hampered by stormy seas and gale-force winds.

The Italian Coast Guard confirmed the body of an 11th victim was recovered Tuesday.

At least three of the victims were identified as Italian nationals, all of them lorry drivers from Naples. The bodies of two of them were recognised by relatives, while the third was not recovered.

Bari prosecutor Giuseppe Volpe, who was among those investigating the ferry disaster, said Tuesday that more victims might be found on the wreckage.

Four illegal migrants -- three Afghans and a Syrian national -- are among the ferry survivors and this would make it more "likely" that other illegal migrants had died in the blaze, according to the prosecutor.

Significant discrepancies have also been discovered in the names of those on the ferry's manifest and those who were rescued.

Officially, the Norman Atlantic's manifest contained 478 passengers and crew.

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