Simultaneously battling driving rain, gale-force winds, freezing temperatures, flames, and smoke, Italian and Greek rescuers have painstakingly plucked all of more than 400 passengers and crew from a blazing ferry in the Adriatic Sea, reports CNN. In the course of the daylong rescue, they came upon four more bodies from the Norman Atlantic in the water, reports the AP; two more bodies were recovered after that, bringing the death toll to seven. One man died yesterday after becoming trapped in a lifeboat chute. Passengers, who were in communication with media via telephone, described a hellish scene as they awaited an arduous rescue via helicopter: "Our feet were burning, and from the feet up we were soaked," one passenger tells the AP, adding that people were "trampling on each other to get onto the helicopter."
Echoes another, per CNN: Those aboard were "dying of cold and suffocating from the smoke." Says yet another passenger, "We experienced the Titanic. The only thing missing was that we didn't sink." Some 150 passengers were able to escape in the first hours after the fire broke out on the ferry's car deck, notes CNN; subsequent lifeboats couldn't be deployed when the boat lost power, rendering the electronic arms that moved the vessels useless. Survivors, some limping or with bandaged feet, were being brought to shore in Italy. Several have been treated for hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning, notes the AP. A total of 414 people were rescued, with the captain being the last to leave. The ferry is expected to eventually be towed to Italy. (Read more ferry stories.)