ATHENS - Italy's navy has taken over a Moldovan-flagged cargo ship found floating in the Adriatic Sea with at least 600 migrants on board
The Blue Sky M, which had left Greek waters and was headed toward Italy, was spotted about 16 kilometers (10 miles) off the coast of Corfu earlier in the day after authorities got a call about a potential incident on board.
Greek naval and coast guard vessels as well as a military helicopter were sent to the scene, but the ship was allowed to continue into international waters after the captain assured officials the situation was under control.
“He said there was no problem and he would continue on course towards Italy,” said a shipping ministry official, who declined to be quoted by name.
The Italian Coast Guard then intercepted the ship as it approached Italy and discovered the crew had abandoned the vessel and rigged the engine to result in a crash into the coast.
There was no information available on the nationalities or conditions of the migrants.
The incident followed a massive rescue operation in the area earlier this week to save more than 400 people from a burning ferry, the Norman Atlantic. Ten people aboard that vessel died after a fire broke out on board.
Italy and Greece have seen more than 100,000 immigrants arrive on their shores from the Middle East and North Africa, often traveling in small, unsafe boats. Thousands have died in the attempt.
The civil war in Syria and a state of near-anarchy in Libya have worsened the crisis.
Some material for this report came from AP.