Pictures show thick black smoke engulfing the ship in rough seas
The Norman Atlantic was travelling from Patras in Greece to Ancona in Italy. Choppy seas and strong winds are hampering the rescue. Early reports that it was tilting have been denied. There are no reports of casualties. Greek and Italian officials say 131 people have been rescued. Italian media say the fire broke out on the ferry?s car deck early on Sunday morning.
Around 35 passengers of those rescued were transferred to a nearby Greek ferry by lifeboat, Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said.
?This is a complicated rescue mission? The visibility is poor and the weather conditions are difficult, but we are confident because there are a good number of ships in the area,? he said.
Italian and Albanian teams are also taking part in the rescue operation. One of the passengers told Greek TV station Mega: ?Our shoes started being submerged as we were in the reception area. We are burning and sinking with no-one able to rescue us. Please help us, do not leave us alone.?
Ferries are an important mode of transport between Greece?s hundreds of islands as well as neighbouring countries.