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A blaze of olive oil

A blaze of olive oil
Olive producers from Greece’s Peloponnese region have in recent months found a lucrative new market across the Adriatic Sea ferrying truck loads of olives to cover the needs of the Italian market.

However, there could be changes on the way for this trade, especially when it comes to ferrying the product across the Adriatic.

Some 19 trucks carrying olive products were loaded in the garages of the ill-fated ro-pax Norman Atlantic which burned for two weeks after fire broke out in its garages while enroute from the north Peloponnese port of Patras to Ancona in Italy.

Olive oil is highly flammable and as investigations into the fire get underway, the confirmed death toll is likely to rise to more than three times the nine people confirmed dead.

Authorities at the Italian port of Brindisi, 12 January, fully extinguished the fire raising hopes the stalled hunt for missing persons will intensify along with the investigation into the fire which began 28 December.

The process of extracting the smoke from the vehicle decks of the Italian-flagged, Visemar di Navigazione-owned Anek Lines-chartered vessel immediately got underway and the search for people unaccounted for began. Italian authorities believe many more people than the official 474-plus were onboard and the bodies of stowaways will be found among the rubble in the garages.

Cause of the fire is still to be determined, but it is thought to have broken out on the garage decks of the 26,900gt ro-pax, built 2009.although the Greek authorities insist the number unaccounted for is 18, among them 10 Greeks.

The casualty resulted in a massive rescue operation in bad weather over several days which saw some 460-plus people saved, many of them airlifted in pairs off the burning ship because other vessels could not get alongside. It was 2 January before tugboats were finally able to tow the hulk to the port of Brindisi, an operation which saw two Albanian salvors killed when a tow line snapped.

In port the fire kept flaring up. Large quantities of water cannot be used in such an operation and immense heat was generated as the olive cargo burned.