ATHENS/BARI - Passengers from a car ferry, ablaze off the coast of Greece, arrived in Italy on Monday as rescue teams worked to save 149 people still stranded on board 24 hours after the fire started.
Rescuers worked through the night to pull 329 people off the multideck ferry, the Italian navy said.
Helicopter crews have been airlifting passengers from the upper deck of the Norman Atlantic, which caught fire in the early hours of Sunday and began drifting in rough seas between Greece and Italy.
Bad weather hampered efforts overnight to attach cables to the ferry for towing, and a tug boat is expected to reach the ship to make another attempt by 10 am local time (5am Singapore time), Greece's shipping minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis told Skai TV.
No decision had been made on where the ferry would be taken, he said, although there had been expectations that it would be towed to the Italian port of Brindisi.
A merchant ship carrying a reported 49 of the ferry passengers, including four children, arrived in the southern Italian port of Bari on Monday and Italian Admiral Giovanni di Tullio told Sky TG24 they would receive medical attention.
Sky and Italian state television RAI reported that one of the people rescued said he had seen four people dead, but there was no confirmation of the report.
A medical team and a flight operator had boarded the stricken vessel to assist the passengers and crew as the rescue proceeds, the navy said.
After initial rescue efforts were impeded by bad weather that stopped other ships getting close, Italian and Greek helicopter crews began the airborne operation on Sunday afternoon.
The rescue is being coordinated from the Italian navy's amphibious transport ship the San Giorgio.
Eighty five people had been transferred to the San Giorgio by 0750 GMT and one person suffering from heart disease was taken to the Italian mainland by helicopter, the navy said.
One man died on Sunday and four people were reported to be injured. Several passengers have been flown to Galatina in southern Italy.
The Italian-flagged ferry, chartered by Greek ferry operator Anek Lines, was sailing between Patros in western Greece to Ancona in Italy carrying 478 passengers and crew and more than 200 vehicles when it caught fire.