• 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
Rome mayor reticent on 2024 Olympic bid
Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi argues that the Olympics are not a priority for the capital. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

"Let's first think about abandoned municipal installations and sport in schools."

Italy starts work on wooden towns for quake homeless
A temporary town at Onna, built after the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake. Photo: Vincenzo Pito/AFP

The towns will be modelled on similar settlements built following the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake.

Migrants mass in Libya in deadly 'race against time'
Abdel Hamid al-Souei of Libya's Red Crescent said improved weather triggered this week's mass outflow of migrants to Europe. Photo: Mahmud Turkia/AFP

Thousands of migrants are "racing against the clock" to make the perilous crossing from Libya to Europe before summer ends, with authorities in the conflict-torn country at a loss to stem the flow.

Venice Film Festival
Magical musical to kick off star-studded Venice fest
The Golden Lion is the top price at Venice's annual film festival. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

A bewitching musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone will open the Venice film festival on Wednesday, kicking off a US-heavy line-up of flicks vying for the coveted Golden Lion.

Ventura starts life as Italy manager against France
The 68-year-old manager is hoping to make a successful start. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Chelsea jokes aside, Giampiero Ventura is hoping to pick up where Antonio Conte left off when he leads a new-look Italy for the first time in a friendly against beaten Euro 2016 finalists France on Thursday.

Amid ruins, Italy mourns quake victims
Relatives mourn during a funeral service for victims of the earthquake in Amatrice. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Italy on Tuesday held a poignantly symbolic funeral for victims of last week's earthquake amid the ruins of Amatrice, the small town that bore the brunt of the disaster.

3,000 migrants saved off Libya a day after record rescue
Photo: STR/AFP

Rescuers saved 3,000 migrants in the waters off Libya on Tuesday as they tried desperately to reach Europe, a day after a record 6,500 people were rescued in the Mediterranean.

How we found each other through The Local Italy
Tom and Orna on their wedding day in Veneto in July.

Orna O’Reilly had been widowed for over 20 years before she moved to Italy’s Veneto region from Ireland in March 2013. A few months later, she met her future husband – via The Local Italy.

Video
Cat pulled alive from Italy's quake rubble after five days
Gioia is dehydrated but doing well. Photo: Facebook/ENPA

There were rare scenes of joy in earthquake-hit Amatrice on Monday, when a fortunate cat was rescued from the ruins of a collapsed home and returned to its tearful owner.

England 'keeper Hart jets in for Torino medical
Joe Hart is set to join Torino on loan. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

England goalkeeper Joe Hart is set to become the first English goalkeeper to play in Italy's top flight since 1930.

Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
The incredible hero dogs of Italy’s earthquake
National
Why quake-hit Amatrice will never be the same again
National
Why discontented Italians could derail their economy
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Society
Keep passports safe: Typical pickpocket scams revealed
Culture
Why coffee in Italy is a culture you must taste to understand
Society
The richest families in Florence in 1427 are still rich today
Culture
So why do pasta-loving Italians live such long lives?
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
National
Italy's Renzi prepares for stormy autumn
Society
This 104-year-old just saw the sea for the first time
National
Should Rome give up on its 2024 Olympic dream?
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Society
The Italian doctor giving hope to thousands of migrants
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Culture
Ten 'Italian' dishes that don't actually exist in Italy
Sport
Five Italian athletes going for gold at the Rio Olympics
Travel
Trastevere: From a fiery past to Rome’s souvenir stand
Politics
Think Trump would be a disaster? Just ask the Italians
National
How Brexit has helped to expose Italy’s banking malaise
Politics
After Brexit, keep a close eye on Italy's Five Star Movement
Lifestyle
12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Italy
National
Why Milan could be Europe's post-Brexit financial hub
Travel
Five crowd-free alternatives to Italy's tourist hotspots
National
Italian hotspots struggling with 'too many tourists'
Culture
Meet the Italian chef behind the world's best restaurant
2,493
jobs available