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Last Updated: Friday, 1 February 2008, 17:33 GMT
Salvage bids assessed amid storms
Grounded ferry on beach near Blackpool
Salvage crews are looking at how to recover a stricken ferry and trawler that ran aground off the UK coast in severe weather and stormy seas.

Rescuers airlifted 23 passengers and crew from a ferry which was beached by a freak wave off Blackpool's coast.

A helicopter winched 14 people to safety from the stricken trawler off St Kilda, in the Outer Hebrides.

Elsewhere high winds have caused power cuts, road closures, and disruption to drivers and travellers.

The Met Office has issued severe weather warnings across the UK with the exception of south-east England.

The Riverdance ferry became grounded off the coast near Blackpool in Lancashire, as it crossed the Irish Sea at about 2000GMT on Thursday night.

The freight vessel which had been taking trucks from Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland to the port of Heysham started to list at an angle of 60 degrees.

The Bahamas-registered vessel, which was built in 1977, is now being monitored by the coastguard in case of any oil spills. It is carrying 150 tonnes of fuel.

Grounded ferry on beach near Blackpool

But the salvage team's efforts are being hampered by what coastguards say are winds of up to 70mph.

One of those involved in the recovery operation praised the rescue crews and the Riverdance's captain.

John Matthews, from Fleetwood RNLI, said: "The conditions were terrible. I've got to say that the two lifeboat crews and the helicopters did a wonderful job.

"Listening to it on the radio, everything was very calm and professional. I was quite amazed by how calm the master of the ship was."

Mr Matthews said it was "some of the worst" weather the Fleetwood lifeboat had ever been sent out in.

Environment fears

The Spanish crew of the British-registered Spinningdale trawler have now been flown to Stornoway. Four were taken to hospital suffering from hypothermia.

Their vessel ran aground on rocks on one of the islands of the St Kilda archipelago - 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides.

The Spinningdale
The trawler hit rocks on the St Kilda islands, the remotest part of Britain

They were unable to evacuate to a life raft because of Force 9 winds.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch will launch an investigation into the incident amid fears the trawler could pose an environmental risk to the archipelago, which is a twice-listed World Heritage Site.

Jamie Ralston, the rescue centre co-ordinator at Stornoway Coastguard, told the BBC: "Our main concern ... if the vessel does break up, there was 8,000 litres of fuel oil and 450 litres of lube oil on board the vessel, is what damage that might do to the surrounding coastline and wildlife."

Gales and snow

Meanwhile motorists across the country have also been hit by high winds which have caused several accidents, and two filling stations in Cumbria have had parts of their roofs blown off.

Durham police have launched a rescue operation in Teesdale after 100 vehicles became stranded in the snow west of Bowes village.

Drivers are being moved to a nearby village hall and pub. Officers are warning those stranded to stay with their cars until the emergency services can reach them.

SEE ALSO
Crew rescued from stricken boat
01 Feb 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Operation to float stricken ferry
01 Feb 08 |  Lancashire
In Pictures: Stricken Riverdance
01 Feb 08 |  In Pictures
In pictures: Stormy UK weather
01 Feb 08 |  In Pictures
Air rescue for ferry travellers
31 Jan 08 |  Merseyside
Lorry driver dies in 70mph winds
31 Jan 08 |  England

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