Italy saves 970 migrants abandoned by smugglers - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Italy saves 970 migrants abandoned by smugglers

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 Italy's Coast Guard has rescued nearly 1,000 migrants who were on board a cargo ship.

   Authorities say smugglers had put the ship on automatic pilot, heading straight for a crash into the Italian coast. They say the engine was blocked on automatic pilot at a speed of nearly seven miles an hour -- and that the ship was just a few miles from a crash into the shore when Coast Guard officials were lowered onto the ship by helicopter to correct its course.

   A Coast Guard commander says the crash would have brought "death and destruction."

   As for how the smugglers could have escaped in the stormy seas, officials say the migrants are being interviewed to see if the smugglers might be mingled among them.

   The Coast Guard had traced the ship's location after a passenger made a satellite phone call seeking help. It was not clear what port the ship had left from.

   To avoid capture, smugglers frequently abandon migrants at sea.

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