Telegraph, January 1, 2015
An unmanned merchant ship with 450 migrants on board is heading for the Italian coast–the second such vessel to be abandoned in less than a week.
The Ezadeen, sailing under the flag of Sierra Leone, had no crew on board and was going towards Puglia in the south-east of Italy when it ran out of power.
One of the passengers on board was able to operate the ship’s radio and informed the coastguard that the crew had jumped ship.
A helicopter has been sent to lower rescuers on to the ship, to try to bring it under control.
The new high-seas drama came two days after Italian sailors intercepted a “ghost ship” carrying more than 700 mostly Syrian migrants which had been heading for the rocks of Italy’s southeastern shore on autopilot, having been abandoned by the people smugglers who had navigated it from Turkey via Greek waters.
In that incident, the Moldovan-registered Blue Sky M cargo ship got to within five miles–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.
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.