The Italian ferry company Tirrenia's Vincenzo Florio was on its way to Palermo, Italy from Naples when the ship caught fire with over 500 aboard, including 65 children. Many of the children were in a group of around 30 elementary school children, accompanied by parents and teachers, who were on a school trip.
Lifeboats were lowered and the ship was evacuated as other area ships, boats and aircraft raced to the area to assist the ship with safely evacuating the passengers and crew aboard.
The fire broke out in the hold around 0330 hours in the morning. At the start, the crew used extinguishers to fight the fire. They gained control of it and the ferry started moving again.
But suddenly, the fumes became very black and thick and people couldn't breathe. The boat was overrun by smoke so the captain gave the order around 0600 hours to lower the lifeboats as the ship was about 40 kilometers or 25 miles from Palermo, Italy.
Reports say 29 were injured during the fire, several were taken to area hospitals. The ship was towed to port where an investigation has begun into the fire. The fire is believed to have started within a car or refrigerated truck and then spread to other vehicles and ultimately to the ferry structure.
The ship had caught fire once before on a trip from Palermo to Naples in 2004.