Helicopters with the Italian coast guard have saved all 19 crew members from an empty oil tanker that hit rocks off the coast of Sicily.
An Italian oil tanker, the Gelso M, ran aground off the coast of Sicily on Saturday. Italian coast guard helicopters were able to save the entire crew of 19 from the deck of the ship.
The vessel was listing too severely, and its location on the rocks was too perilous, to allow coast guard ships or life rafts to be deployed to extract the crew.
"The helicopters were operating in critical conditions due to the terrible weather and strong winds, but everyone is now safe and sound," Italian coast guard commander Filippo Marini told news channel Sky TG24.
The 11,000 ton vessel was reported as empty when it ran aground while navigating through poor weather in the area. It had set sail from Venice, and was heading for the Sicilian port of Augusta to take on fuel.
The ship had taken on water in its engine room and plans were being made to move it from the rocks, the coastguard said.
This shipwreck was the second in two months, after the Costa Concordia cruise ship violently ran aground off the coast of the island of Gigio on January 13, resulting in more than 30 deaths.
sjt/pfd (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)