Smugglers set fire to a cargo ship carrying 30 tons of hash after being spotted by authorities in the Mediterranean. Crewmembers jumped overboard and had to be rescued by authorities as dark plumes of smoke filled the air.
The freighter was intercepted off the coast of Sicily after authorities received a tip that the ship was trafficking illegal drugs. With minutes of an Italian coastguard helicopter flying by for a look, the crew panicked and set fire to the massive hash stash worth more than $78 million.
While the ship was registered to the East African nation of Tanzania, the crew consisted of Egyptians and Syrians and the hash was smuggled out of Turkey.
Firefighting boats extinguished the blaze and preserved the remaining hashish. The freighter was then towed to the Sicilian port town of Syracuse where the soggy smugglers are being held for questioning.
“The idea was no doubt to try and destroy the evidence so that we could have no case against them but their plan failed and the fire was put out and the drugs were found during the search,” an Italian Customs spokesman told the press.
“Nine people on board jumped into the sea but they couldn't get very far as they were several miles from shore and they had to be rescued by Italian customs officers.”