Europe

Helicopter rescue for crew of ship aground off Sicily

  • 10 March 2012
  • From the section Europe
A helicopter hovers near the Gelso M as it sits aground on the Sicilian coast near Syracuse, 10 March
Image caption Four helicopters were used in the rescue

Coast guards in Italy have used helicopters to rescue the crew of a cargo ship after it ran aground on a reef off Sicily in stormy seas.

All 19 crew members were ferried to shore by helicopters after the captain of the Gelso M gave the order to abandon ship.

Weather conditions are deteriorating in the area near the city of Syracuse on Sicily's south-east coast.

There were no reports of any cargo aboard the Italian-flagged vessel.

Coastguard spokesman Cosimo Nicastro said four helicopters had been used to airlift the crew to safety, and all of them were well.

Helicopters were needed for the evacuation because the ship's position on the reefs had made it impossible for the crew to lower lifeboats or for rescue vessels to approach.

The ship's double hull meant there was a low risk of pollution but the environment ministry was alerted nonetheless, AFP news agency reports.

Rescue service sources quoted by the agency suggested that, given the weather conditions, the captain had been sailing too close to the coast.

The incident comes two months after the cruise ship Costa Concordia hit rocks off the island of Giglio on Italy's west coast, capsizing with the loss of 32 lives.