• Italy's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Italy mounts rescue for 'drifting' migrant ship

AFP · 2 Jan 2015, 09:06

Published: 02 Jan 2015 09:06 GMT+01:00

Six coastguard officers were lowered from a helicopter onto the deck of the vessel which had been abandoned by its crew, off Italy's southwest coast, and took control of the ship, the navy said.

The high-seas drama came days after Italy stopped another ship carrying hundreds of migrants drifting towards its shores, as the southern European country struggles with a record wave of migrants making the perilous journey from North Africa.

The second ship was identified as the 73-metre-long (240-foot-long) Sierra Leone-registered Ezadeen, which a marine traffic website said was meant to be travelling between Cyprus and the French southern port of Sete.

Prior to losing power, the almost 50-year-old ship had been moving at a brisk seven knots and had been spotted by a coastguard plane 80 miles offshore shortly after nightfall.

One of the people on board the Ezadeen was able to operate the ship's radio and informed the coastguard that the crew had jumped ship.

The coastguard asked for assistance from Icelandic patrol boat Tyr, which was in the area on a mission with Frontex, the European Union's border agency.

The Tyr was able to draw alongside the runaway ship, but the weather conditions made boarding impossible.

The Icelandic vessel has three doctors on board who will be winched on to the merchant ship by helicopter to treat any unwell passengers, the air force said.

Series of maritime dramas

Earlier this week, Italian sailors intercepted a freighter carrying nearly 770 migrants which had been drifting towards the rocks of Italy's southeastern shore on autopilot, abandoned by the people smugglers who had navigated it from Turkey via Greek waters.

The Moldovan-registered Blue Sky M cargo ship got to within five miles - or 45 minutes sailing time - of a disaster before six navy officers were lowered on to the ship by helicopter and succeeded in bringing it under control.

The vessel's human cargo included some 60 children and two pregnant women, one of whom gave birth on board as the boat steamed towards catastrophe, according to the Italian Red Cross.

Many of the migrants on the ship were treated for hypothermia and broken limbs.

The migrant boat dramas have come as Italy grapples with the aftermath of the Norman Atlantic ferry disaster in which at least 13 people have died following an onboard fire that erupted before dawn on Sunday in waters off Albania.

Story continues below…

They also come after a record year for people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia attempting to reach Europe by sea.

More than 170,000 people have been rescued by Italy in the last 14 months and hundreds, possibly thousands, have perished trying to make the crossing.

They are almost invariably under the control of ruthless traffickers who earn thousands of dollars for every person they put to sea from Libya and other departure points in North Africa.

Increasingly, the traffickers appear to have decided that the best way to get their human cargoes to Europe is to put to sea and then abandon the boats.

Since the onset of winter they have been using bigger boats than the converted fishing boats and dinghies they previously favoured.

For more news from Italy, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
And Lonely Planet's 3rd 'must visit' Europe destination is...
This Italian town is a 'must see' this year. Photo: Gatnau/Flickr

Drumroll, please.

Plush Sardinian resort serves Harrods with eviction notice
Harrods has been told it cannot open in Sardinia this year. Photo: Rick Payette/Tony Sheng/Hl_1001/Flickr

“Everybody, including Harrods, needs to obey the same rules."

Italian football hooligan gets 26 years for rival fan's murder
Daniele De Santis has been found guilty of killing a Napoli fan ahead of the Italian Cup final in 2014. Photos: Rome police/AFP

Daniele De Santis, a Roma 'ultra' and right-wing militant, was on Tuesday found guilty of killing 31-year-old Ciro Esposito.

GO! Italians asked to vote on coveted Monopoly locations
Photo: Jonathan Lin/Flickr

The classic board game is getting an Italian makeover - and you can have a say in how the finished board looks.

Meredith Kercher's convicted killer gets 36 hours of freedom
Rudy Guede has been granted 36 hours temporary release from prison. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/The Local

Rudy Guede, the man currently serving a 16-year jail sentence for the 2008 murder of 21 year old British exchange student Meredith Kercher, has been given 36 hours of temporary release from prison as a reward for good behaviour.

Largest show of Banksy's works opens in Rome
An exhibition featuring 120 works by Banksy has opened in Rome. Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP

But will the elusive artist put in an appearance?

Over 2,000 stricken migrants rescued in the Mediterranean
More than 2,000 people have been rescued in the Mediterranean. Photo: Ricardo Garcia Vilanova/AFP

So far this year more than 34,000 people have been brought to the Italian coast after being rescued off Libya.

Alleged Portuguese, Russian 'spies' arrested in Rome
A senior Portuguese intelligence officer has been arrested in Rome along with a Russian. Photo: Raffaele Esposito

A source close to the case said the secrets allegedly passed on concerned the European Union and Nato, of which Portugal is a member.

How the brutal murder of an anti-mafia hero altered Sicily
Anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone was murdered in 1992. Photo: Gerard Fouet/AFP

Monday marked the 24th anniversary since the Sicilian judge and anti-mafia campaigner, Giovanni Falcone, was assassinated after a bomb was placed under his car on a highway near the town of Capaci.

Euro 2016
Pirlo and Balotelli missing as Conte finetunes Italy squad
Antonio Conte has cut cut several Euro 2016 hopefuls from a preliminary squad. Photo: Fredrik Varfjell/AFP

It now looks certain that neither Andrea Pirlo or Mario Balotelli will feature at Euro 2016.

National
Why Italians are falling out of love with the EU
Business & Money
Foreign, female and a self-made success in arduous Italy
National
How Italy's richest region is feeling the migrant strain
Culture
Rome mulls 'metro museum' after new line unearths ruin
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
National
Why Italy's facing a birth rate apocalypse
National
Why talk of barriers is opening up old wounds in South Tyrol
Culture
Huge Roman villa found under Amalfi church set to open
Travel
Two men kicked off plane in what captain calls 'racist act'
Meet the expats making a career out of Italian food
Society
'Staying single is why I'm the world's oldest person'
Travel
Where can you find the best beaches in Italy?
The ultimate guide to the insanity of driving in Italy
Travel
Eight of Rome's most tantalizing foreign food gems
Migrant arrivals in Italy top 30,000 for 2016: navy
Italy’s deadliest earthquakes over the last 100 years
Travel
US passports now need six months validity for Italy
Travel
Six incredible ways Italy profoundly changed my life
Society
Cheese, wine and family: the Italian way to live beyond 100
Culture
7 breathtaking alternatives to Italy's tourist hotspots
Politics
Long-term Brit in Italy barred from EU vote vows to fight on
Health
Why Italian merry widows perk up after husbands die
2,526
jobs available