The ship’s engines had been locked and its steering set on a course which would have seen it smash into rocks in southern Italy.
18:14, UK, Wednesday 31 December 2014
Italy’s coastguard said they narrowly averted a “massacre” after a cargo ship was abandoned at sea with more than 900 Syrian refugees on board.
Officers said the Blue Sky M’s engines had been locked and its steering set on a course which would have seen it smash ashore in Italy’s Puglia region.
Two helicopters were scrambled overnight and six coastguard officers boarded the ship and managed to bring it under control just five miles from the rocky coastline.
“It was a real race against the clock,” said coastguard spokesman Filippo Marini.
“Unlocking the engines was a difficult and delicate operation, but they managed to do it.”