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Fire Thwarts Search for Remains Aboard Greek Ferry

A firefighter sprays water on the Norman Atlantic ferry after it was towed into the port of Brindisi, southern Italy, Jan. 3, 2015.

Intense heat from a slow-burning blaze is hampering efforts by firefighters and investigators to search a Greek ferry for any more remains of people killed after the vessel caught fire at sea last month.

The fire broke out on the Norman Atlantic's car deck December 28 as the ferry traveled from Greece to Italy. The ferry was towed to the Italian port of Brindisi in a 17-hour operation across the Adriatic Sea. The vessel arrived in port on Friday and its data recorder was recovered, but officials said that because the vessel was still smoldering, they could not get to some areas, including the car deck.

The cause of the blaze, which has left at least 11 people dead, is not known.

Italy has said more than 470 people were rescued, most of them by helicopters that picked up survivors and carried them to nearby boats.

Prosecutors said they feared that unregistered migrants had been smuggled in cars and trucks on the ferry and might have perished in the flames.

In addition to the Italian captain and head of the company that built the ferry, two Italian crew members and two representatives of the Greek ferry line Anek Lines, which rented the vessel, are under investigation.