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Captain and 5 crew charged in Greek ferry sinking

ATHENS (Reuters) - A Greek prosecutor on Saturday charged the captain and five other crew of a cruise ship which ran aground near the Aegean island of Santorini, as the search continued for two French passengers missing since the shipwreck.

The listing Greek-flagged cruise ship Sea Diamond, carrying nearly 1,200 passengers and some 400 crew, is surrounded by rescue vessels at the old port on the Greek island of Santorini April 5, 2007. Greek rescue boats on Saturday scoured the waters around the Aegean island of Santorini for two French tourists missing after the evacuation of the ship. REUTERS/Dimitris Prassos

The 22,412-tonne Sea Diamond, run by Louis Cruise Lines, hit a reef on Thursday close to the shore of the picturesque island, one of Greece’s most popular tourist destinations. It listed and was evacuated within hours.

A 45-year-old Frenchman and his 16-year-old daughter remain unaccounted for. His wife and son were among 1,156 passengers and 391 crew safely evacuated from the Greek-registered ship.

Louis Cruise Lines said there had been 730 Americans, 112 Spaniards, 100 French and many other foreigners on board, including Germans, Britons and Australians. Many have flown home and others are in hotels in the Greek capital.

The six crew have been charged with “misdemeanours”, meaning they would probably face fines or suspended sentences rather than jail if convicted.

A police source told Reuters the prosecutor on the island of Naxos had charged them with negligence leading to the sinking, violation of international maritime rules and other offences.

The six were allowed to go free awaiting trial. A date for the trial has not been set.

Greece’s Merchant Marine Ministry said it would conduct a new round of hearings with the six in an effort to determine what exactly caused the ship to sink only metres from the island.

“The six people have been taken back to Santorini from Naxos to testify again in the coming days,” the police source said. “The ministry activated an old rule that allows it to question sailors again even after charges have been filed.”

The cruiser left the port of Piraeus on Monday for a five-day island cruise and had been due to return on Friday. It sank early on Friday.

A ministry official said two coastguard ships and two other vessels were cleaning up a small oil spill caused by the wreck.