Second migrant ship Ezadeen being towed to Italian port with up to 450 on board

Rescue operations are underway as the Ezadeen has lost power off the Puglian coast

Ben Tufft
Friday 02 January 2015 10:38 GMT
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Sierra Leone-flagged Ezadeen vessel, carrying hundreds of migrants, is towed by the Icelandic Coast Guard vessel Tyr in rough seas in the Mediterranean sea off Italy's south coast in this handout provided by the Icelandic Coast Guard January 2, 2015.
Sierra Leone-flagged Ezadeen vessel, carrying hundreds of migrants, is towed by the Icelandic Coast Guard vessel Tyr in rough seas in the Mediterranean sea off Italy's south coast in this handout provided by the Icelandic Coast Guard January 2, 2015. (Reuters)

A crewless ship with up to 450 migrants on board that lost power off the coast of Italy is being towed to port, days after a separate ship carrying 1,000 migrants was rescued.

Italy’s Guardia Costiera tweeted: “The Coast Guard has taken command of the merchant ship with 450 migrants.”

An Icelandic coastguard ship, the Tyr, which is patrolling the seas as part of the EU-wide Frontex mission, is towing the ship to an Italian port.

The Italian coast guard had said the Ezadeen, which is sailing under a Sierra Leone flag, was heading for the coast before it lost power. Poor weather hampered efforts to assist the stricken ship, which took place overnight.

A helicopter was sent to lower engineers and electricians onto the 73-metre ship, which was floating 40 miles off Capo di Leuca, in the south-east of Italy.

Nicolo Nicolosi of the Italian Air Force said "So far the operation is going well," on Sky TG24 TV. A blackout on the vessel had earlier hindered rescue efforts.

News of the second ship comes two days after 1,000 migrants were rescued from the Blue Sky M, which was rescued on Wednesday.

Migrants on the Ezadeen were able to operate the radio on the ship and send a distress call to the coastguard, after the crew abandoned the vessel.

The Ezadeen, a livestock carrier built in 1966, was due to be sailing from Cyprus to Sete in the south of France, but was commandeered by people traffickers.

Blue Sky M, which was carrying 970 people, was abandoned by its crew, who are also believed to be people traffickers, earlier this week.

Coast guards officials were able to board the ship and dock it in the port of Gallipoli. The migrants, who are thought to be mainly Syrians and Kurds, are now being housing temporarily in local schools and a gymnasium.

Since November Italy has wound down its comprehensive 9 million euro a month Mare Nostrum or “Our Sea” search and rescue operation, after calling for help in dealing with waves of migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

The EU-led Triton mission, controlled by Frontex, is now attempting to deal with the issue, but limited funds and resources have hampered its efforts to adequately address the situation, according to critics.

Additional reporting AP

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