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Seven found dead in Greek ferry fire; Rescue now complete

A rescued passenger arrives at the Antonio Perrino hospital in Brindisi, southern Italy, after being lifted off the burning ferry 'Norman Atlantic' adrift off the coast of Albania, on December 28, 2014.
Renato Esposito | AFP | Getty Images
A rescued passenger arrives at the Antonio Perrino hospital in Brindisi, southern Italy, after being lifted off the burning ferry 'Norman Atlantic' adrift off the coast of Albania, on December 28, 2014.

The evacuation of a ferry that caught fire off the coast of Greece has been completed and two more corpses have been found, bringing the death toll seven, Italy's coastguard said on Monday.

The ferry was sailing from Patros in western Greece to Ancona in Italy carrying 478 passengers and more than 200 vehicles when a fire broke out in the early hours of Sunday.

Italian and Greek helicopter crews have been airlifting passengers from the upper deck of the Norman Atlantic, which was chartered by Greek ferry operator Anek Lines, since Sunday afternoon.

Italy's navy said that the Italian captain was the last of the crew to the leave the ship.

The Norman Atlantic was carrying 478 passengers and crew and more than 200 vehicles.

Helicopter crews have been airlifting passengers from the upper deck of the ferry, now drifting in rough seas between Greece and Italy.

After initial rescue efforts were impeded by bad weather that stopped other ships getting close, Italian and Greek helicopter crews began the airlift on Sunday afternoon.

Rescuers worked through the night to pull people off the multi deck ferry, the Italian navy said. Several passengers have been flown to Galatina in southern Italy.

A medical team and a flight operator had boarded the vessel to assist the passengers and crew as the rescue proceeds, a statement from the Italian navy said. Its San Giorgio amphibious transport ship is coordinating the rescue operation.

Read MoreRescuers struggle to reach burning ferry off Greece

Bad weather hampered efforts overnight to attach cables to the ferry for towing, and a tug boat is expected to reach the ship to make another attempt on Monday, Greece's shipping minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis told Skai TV.

No decision had been made on where the ferry would be taken, he said, although there had been expectations that it would be towed to the Italian port of Brindisi.

Eighty five people had been transferred to the San Giorgio by 0750 GMT and one person suffering from heart disease was taken to the Italian mainland by helicopter, the navy said.

The Italian-flagged ferry, chartered by Greek ferry operator Anek Lines, was sailing between Patros in western Greece to Ancona in Italy.

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined but the Greek coastguard said might have started in the parking area.