The Italian coastguard have boarded and taken control of a ship carrying 450 migrants, which was abandoned by its crew off Italy’s coast.
The 73-metre Ezadeen was sailing under the flag of Sierra Leone and lost power in rough seas overnight off the south-east coast of Italy.
Unable to reach the Italian shore, the ship’s crew are believed to have abandoned the vessel, leaving all its 450 passengers stranded at sea.
One of the passengers raised the alarm with a distress call using the maritime radio on board, and told the Italian coastguard:
“We’re without crew, we’re heading toward the Italian coast and we have no-one to steer.”
Now under Italian coastguard control, the vessel is being towed to an Italian port by an Icelandic ship as part of the European Union’s Frontex border control mission.
The majority of the migrants on board the ship are believed to be Syrians fleeing the ongoing civil war and include children and pregnant women.
The incident comes after 796 migrants were rescued from another ship abandoned by its crew off the Italian coast earlier in the week.