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Crew of stranded Italian tanker rescued

ROME — Coast guard helicopters on Saturday lifted to safety all 19 members of an empty Italian oil tanker that ran aground in bad weather off the island of Sicily.

No one was injured in the accident, which took place almost two months after the cruise ship Costa Concordia hit rocks off another Italian island, Giglio.

"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 position of the oil tanker, which was listing after hitting rocks, had made it "impossible to use lifeboats or coast guard patrol boats" to evacuate the crew, another Italian coast guard official, Cosimo Nicastro, said.

The 11,000-ton ship was taking in water in parts of its engine room, and officials were evaluating whether it would be possible to tow it to the nearest port.

The maritime monitoring website said the oil tanker, Gelso M, had set sail from Venice and was heading for the Sicilian port of Augusta.

Inclement weather also struck other parts of the southern Mediterranean on Saturday. In Malta, a British tourist, a man believed to be in his 50s, drowned after being swept out from the shore of the resort town of Qawra.

Rescuers on the island nation worked to clear the streets of toppled electricity poles and trees, while several moored boats were damaged when they drifted onto the shore.

Crew of stranded Italian tanker rescued 03/10/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 10, 2012 8:51pm]
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