Europe

'Migrant ship' heads for Italy after distress call scare

Armed special missions officers of the Greek coast guard set off from Corfu harbour for waters off the Ionian island of Othoni, responding to a distress signal from Moldovan-registered freighter "Blue Sky M" in the area, in Corfu, Greece, 30 December 2014 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Greek coast guard special missions officers were sent from Corfu towards the cargo ship Blue Sky M

A cargo ship believed to be carrying hundreds of migrants is heading for Italy after a passenger sparked an alert near the Greek island of Corfu.

The distress call to Greek emergency services prompted the navy to send a helicopter and a warship to the scene.

But later the coastguard said the captain of the Blue Sky M had been contacted and no-one was in danger.

The incident came two days after a fire broke out on a ferry not far away, leaving at least 10 people dead.

Resources were diverted to the cargo ship from the ongoing search near the wreck of the ferry, Norman Atlantic.

Greek coast guard special missions officers were also seen leaving Corfu for the area, just to the south-west of the small island of Othonoi.

Abrupt turn

The Moldovan-flagged Blue Sky M was reportedly heading for the port of Rijeka in Croatia.

But according to tracking website MarineTraffic, the ship abruptly changed direction south of Othonoi on Tuesday morning, heading west towards Italy.

The passenger on board the Blue Sky M had reportedly phoned the Greek 112 emergency line, complaining "we are without water, food and blankets".

Unconfirmed reports also referred to armed men being on board, however the ship's captain later said no assistance was being sought.

Weather conditions in the Ionian sea have been poor for several days, hampering the rescue of those on board the Norman Atlantic.

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