Corigliano (Italy), Jan 3: A ship abandoned by its crew and left drifting with 450 migrants on board has reached Italy's jagged southern coast, ending the second gruelling "ghost ship" rescue operation this week.
Women and children were among hundreds of migrants left stranded aboard the Ezadeen, which docked in the port of Corigliano Calabro around 11 pm (local time) after a delicate operation by the Italian navy to take control of the boat.
Six coastguard officers were earlier lowered from a helicopter onto the deck of the Sierra Leone-flagged vessel to set up a tow for the 40 kilometres (25 miles) to the Italian coast.
The rescue is the latest in a series of maritime operations Italy has mounted in recent days as it struggles with a record wave of migrants making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.
On Wednesday, the navy faced more drama after it stopped another crewless "ghost" ship left drifting in its waters with nearly 800 migrants on board. Adding to the drama, yesterday another crew brought the burned-out ferry Norman Atlantic into the Italian port of Brindisi, six days after a fire killed 13 passengers and forced the rescue of 477.
Italian media reported that most of the 450 migrants were from Syria
The appearance of the two drifting boats full of migrants within a matter of days has raised concerns that smugglers have started abandoning large boats full of people off the coast of Europe as a new tactic to maximise profits from their ruthless trade.
Italian media reported that most of the 450 migrants found on board the 73-metre-long (240-foot-long) Ezadeen were from Syria, where millions of people have been displaced by nearly four years of civil war.
The livestock vessel had been en route from Famagusta in northern Turkish-controlled Cyprus to the southern French port of Sete, but had first stopped at the Syrian port of Tartus, according to a shipping website.