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Luigi Mistrulli, Associated Press
Rescuers assist a passenger of the Italian-flagged Norman Atlantic, that caught fire in the Adriatic Sea, in Bari harbor, southern Italy, Monday, Dec. 29, 2014. A ferry carrying nearly 500 people caught fire off the Greek island of Corfu early Sunday, trapping passengers on the top decks as gale-force winds and choppy seas hampered the evacuation. Greek and Italian rescue helicopters and vessels struggled to reach the stricken ferry, with nearby merchant ships lining up to form a wall against the raging gusts.

BARI, Italy — The death toll in the Greek ferry fire has risen to eight and rescue workers are investigating if more people are still missing, Italian authorities said Monday.

The evacuation of the ferry was completed in the early afternoon and 427 people have been rescued, including 56 crew members, Italy's transport minister, Maurizio Lupi said.

The original ferry manifest listed 478 passengers and crew.

Lupi said it was premature to speculate on whether people were still missing, but suggested that there might have been some people who reserved a spot on the ferry but did not board.

He said they were checking the manifest against the names of the 427 rescued.

Among the survivors, there were also people not listed on the manifest, indicating the possibility that some on board were traveling illegally.

Exhausted and cold from their ordeal, 49 passengers reached land Monday in the southern Italian port of Bari, more than 24 hours after fire broke out on a car deck of the ferry making a journey from the Greek port of Patras to Ancona in Italy.

The Greek and Italian premiers separately expressed their condolences to the victims and gratitude to the rescue workers. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samras said the "massive and unprecedented operation saved the lives of hundreds of passengers following the fire on the ship in the Adriatic Sea — under the most difficult circumstances," while Renzi said the "impressive" rescue efforts prevented "a slaughter at sea."

Passenger accounts emerging Monday painted a picture of a panicked reaction as the fire spread, with passengers choking on the smoke and struggling to figure out how to reach safety as they suffered both searing heat from the ship's floors and driving rain outside. Prosecutors in Bari were opening an investigation into how the fire started.