Death toll rises from burning ferry off the coast of Greece

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CNN — Th death toll rose to 7 people on Monday  after a fire erupted on a ferry with hundreds of people on board off the coast of Greece, the country’s Merchant Marine Ministry said Sunday, citing Italian authorities.

One victim was a male passenger, the ministry said. The Italian Coast Guard said he jumped off the burning ferry, and that two other passengers were injured.

A joint Italian-Greek rescue operation will continue into Sunday night for those on board the Italian-flagged Norman Atlantic, Italian Minister of Defense Roberta Pinotti said on Twitter.

So far, 161 people have been rescued and 317 are still on board, according to the latest tweet from the Italian Navy, which is leading the search and rescue operation.

The vehicle-passenger ferry was carrying more than 400 passengers, 56 crew members and 222 vehicles when the fire broke out early Sunday morning. Thick clouds of smoke enveloped the vessel as rescuers awaited an opportunity to approach. At least eight ships were deployed, but heavy winds and freezing waters initially hindered their efforts.

The fire is believed to have started in the garage area shortly after the ship left Igoumenitsa, Greece, on Sunday morning. It was heading to Ancona, Italy.