Shocked and sleep-deprived, passengers rescued from a Greece-Italy ferry that caught fire off the island of Corfu said on Saturday they felt relieved to be alive, though some feared for their livelihoods after losing trucks and cargos.
More than 24 hours since the fire broke out early on Friday, rescue teams were still searching for 12 missing people, some of them trapped in the ship, as firefighters struggled to tame the flames on the vessel a few miles off Corfu's coast.
"We saw death in front of us," Danilo Carlucci told Reuters at a hotel on Corfu, where dozens of rescued passengers, including families with children and babies, were taken to shelter.
Many of the ship's passengers, including Carlucci, were truck owners or drivers transporting goods, from plastic cups to carpets, between Greece and Italy or other European countries.
The nine-hour voyage from Igoumenitsa, a port in Western Greece, to the Italian port of Brindisi, was part of their weekly routine.
Truck owner Massimo Averna said he was asleep when crew members came knocking on his cabin door at 4 a.m. (0200 GMT), shouting for passengers to abandon ship.
"We got dressed and immediately went over the bridge," Averna said, adding that when they reached the deck they had seen crew members trying to put out the fire.
Averna had taken the ferry for the first time since buying a new, 200,000-euro truck to transport thermo pellets from Athens to Italy. He had a picture of it on his mobile.
British passenger David Waller, 58, said he had left all his personal belongings behind as he rushed towards the lifeboats in the darkness.
"I didn't know what was happening, you were on a boat ... it was pitch black, so you didn't know where you were ... It was terrifying," Waller said.
Sixteen-year-old Valentino Turlakov said it had been "a truly scary night that I'll never forget in my life."
Many of the 280 rescued passengers said they hoped rescuers would be able to bring to safety the 12 missing passengers who were from Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and Lithuania.