ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek rescuers searched for two French tourists missing after the evacuation of a cruise ship which ran aground off the Aegean island of Santorini before sinking on Friday.
A 45-year-old Frenchman and his 16-year-old daughter were missing. His wife and son were among 1,151 passengers safely evacuated from the Greek-registered Sea Diamond.
“Greek coastguard crews and vessels along with divers are searching the area where the cruiser sank for the two missing people,” Merchant Marine Ministry spokesman Andreas Theofilou said.
The 22,412-tonne Sea Diamond, run by Louis Cruise Lines, ran aground on Thursday just minutes away from the shore of the picturesque island, one of Greece’s most popular tourist destinations. It listed and was evacuated within a few hours.
The French Foreign Ministry said the missing Frenchman was Jean-Christophe Allain.
“Mr Allain’s wife and her son have been removed to a hotel in Athens. Our consul in Athens has gone there to help them,” Jean-Baptiste Mattei, French Foreign Ministry spokesman, told a news conference in Paris.
Louis Cruise Lines said there were 730 Americans, 112 Spaniards, 100 French and many other foreign nationals on board, including Germans, Britons and Australians, plus 390 crew.
The cruiser left the port of Piraeus on Monday for a five-day island cruise and had been due to return on Friday. The company said it was conducting an investigation.
The Merchant Marine Ministry said another Louis Cruise ship transported 296 passengers and 38 crew to Piraeus on Friday. He said some passengers had already returned home while others were accommodated in hotels in the Greek capital.
The ship slowly sank a few meters off Santorini’s rocky coast on Friday, causing a small oil slick which was being cleaned up by coastguard crews.
“Private vessels were also expected in the area to pump remaining fuel out of the vessel,” Theofilou said.
In September 2000, 82 people drowned when the Express Samina ferry hit rocks and sank off the island of Paros, a disaster that led to a major improvement in Greek ferry safety standards.
Additional reporting by Kerstin Gehmlich in Paris