Greek Cruise Ship Sea Diamond Sinks off Santorini

Friday April 6, 2007 11:16 AM

SANTORINI, Greece (AP) - Two French passengers were reported missing Friday following the rescue of nearly 1,600 people from a Greek cruise ship that struck rocks and sank off this holiday island.

Authorities said two French passengers - a 45 year-old man and his 16-year-old daughter - had still not been accounted for, and lists of rescued passengers were being rechecked.

The Sea Diamond sank shortly before 7 a.m. Friday, 15 hours after the accident occurred and the ship began listing and taking on water.

Tourism Minister Fanny Palli Petralia said she had spoken with the missing passenger's wife.

``These are very tragic circumstances,'' Petralia said. ``The lady said her cabin filled with water when the ship struck rocks and that she narrowly escaped. ... She was not sure whether her husband and daughter made it out because things happened so suddenly. Her other child was up on deck and was evacuated safely.''

No injuries were reported during Thursday's dramatic three-hour rescue, which involved Greece's military, commercial ships and the island's local fishermen. Many passengers were forced to climb down rope ladders to coast guard boats below.

Passengers on the cruise were mostly American, and also included groups from Canada and Spain.

The 469-foot Sea Diamond was operated by Louis Cruise Lines, part of a Cyprus-based tourism group.

``Whoever is responsible for this will be held accountable in the strictest way,'' Petralia said. ``Greece is a major tourism destination and incidents like this must not be allowed to occur. ... Authorities handled the rescue very well.''

More than 300 rescued passengers arrived at Athens' main port of Piraeus early Friday on a chartered ferry, and more were due to arrive later in the day on another Louis cruise ship.