Italy scrambled an air force helicopter to save hundreds of migrants abandoned by traffickers in a crewless ship in the Mediterranean.
Italian sailors successfully took control of the crewless ship hours later, the AFP reported.
As the cargo ship perilously floated on the rough sea, the air force helicopter flew down with a mission to lower sailors to secure the ship and allow doctors inside the vessel.
The stranded migrants inside Ezadeen, a Sierra-Leone-flagged vessel, needed immediate medical help, the Guardian reported.
Coastguard commander Filippo Marini said one of the migrants inside the vessel was able to handle the radio phone and make an emergency call for help saying: "We're without crew, we're heading toward the Italian coast and we have no one to steer."
The ANSA news agency said there could be as many as 450 people inside the ship although the exact number has not been officially confirmed. The vessel was located at some 40 miles (64 kilometers) off Italy's southeastern coast.
The air force said in a statement: "Because of the difficult weather conditions the ship can only be boarded from the air."
The coastguard had asked for assistance from Icelandic patrol boat 'Tyr', which was in the same area in a mission for European Union's border agency, Frontex.
Although the boat was able to move alongside the abandoned ship, harsh weather conditions made it impossible for the passengers to be transferred.
The helicopter scrambled for help was expected to transfer three doctors present on board the Icelandic vessel to Ezadeen so that they could treat any ill passengers, the air forces said.