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Last Updated: Friday, 1 February 2008, 07:15 GMT
Ferry aground as storms batter UK
The rescue was filmed from an RAF helicopter

A ferry which ran aground at Blackpool has become a casualty of winter storms that have lashed parts of the UK.

Fourteen passengers had to be airlifted from the Riverdance freight ferry, nine remaining crew members were rescued after a second Mayday was declared.

The ferry was carrying lorries from Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland to the port of Heysham in Lancashire.

High winds are battering much of the UK, with forecasters warning of blizzards to come.

The roll-on-roll-off ferry, run by Seatruck Ferries Limited, was listing to 60 degrees amid fierce storms and ran into trouble 10 miles west of Fleetwood in Lancashire.

Mark Clark from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it is now aground on the north shore of Blackpool beach. He said staff would have to wait for first light to assess whether the vessel had spilled oil or other pollutants.

Rescue teams will wait for high tide before trying to refloat the vessel.

Map of Northern Ireland and England
The ferry was on its way from Northern Ireland to England

Sea King helicopters are taking the passengers on board to Blackpool Airport.

On Thursday a 45-year-old lorry driver died on the M6 near Tebay, Cumbria, as his lorry overturned in 70 mph gusts.

In Wales some homes are without power and the Forth Road Bridge, west of Edinburgh, has reopened after a crash.

However, it remains closed to high-sided vehicles, caravans and motorcycles after a lorry earlier overturned in high winds.

The Port of Dover in Kent has reopened after gusts of up to 60mph forced it to close, causing widespread disruption.

About 1,000 homes were without power in Gwynedd and two schools, John Beddoes High in Presteigne and Whitton Primary schools in Powys, closed because of a power failure.

In Moseley, Birmingham, a baby girl had to be taken to hospital after a strong gust knocked her and the pushchair she was in into a lake.

West Midlands Ambulance Service said her mother jumped to her rescue after high winds carried the child into the water as the pair were feeding ducks.

The air will be a lot colder, with sleet and snow showers working their way across the whole of the UK by tomorrow morning
Met Office

There are widespread travel delays, including at the Port of Dover where disruption to sailings remains.

Passengers are being advised to check with their operator before travelling.

Kent Police implemented Operation Stack - closing a section of the M20 because of the port closure - and this remains in place.

Arctic weather

The Met Office has issued a severe weather warning for parts of the UK.

Spokeswoman Helen Chivers said the cold weather was coming "straight from the Arctic" and everywhere across the UK would have a chance of seeing snow over the coming days.

"The air will be a lot colder, with sleet and snow showers working their way across the whole of the UK by Friday morning."

Northern areas could see snowfall between 10cm (4in) and 20cm (8in), while southern England is likely to see 2cm (1in) to 5cm (2in) of snow.

Blizzards and snow drifts, due to the high winds, were likely in northern parts, she added.

M6 lorry crash (Pic by Mark Smith)
A man died when his lorry was blown over on the M6

Elsewhere, a 50-mile stretch of the M6 motorway was closed to all traffic as winds gusted up to 70mph causing several accidents, including the fatal one near Tebay early on Thursday.

A Cumbria Police spokesman said: "The HGV appeared to have been affected by the adverse weather and has blown over, causing the vehicle to collide into a central reservation."

In Wales, the M48 old Severn Bridge, the Cleddau Bridge in Pembrokeshire and the Britannia Bridge in north Wales are closed to high-sided vehicles.

In Scotland, restrictions are in place on the Tay and Erskine bridges, and further north there were also warnings on the Skye and Kessock bridges.

Around Aberdeenshire, police are warning that heavy snow, fallen trees, and a number of other minor incidents are causing problems for motorists.

A Grampian Police spokesman said: "Drivers are warned to be wary of the possibility of trees or other debris on roads, in view of the current weather conditions, and to take particular care."

Also in Aberdeenshire, a 61-year-old ice climber who was stranded on a cliff after injuring his leg, was rescued in an operation involving up to 50 people.

Teams from RAF Leuchars and Lossiemouth braved blizzards to save the man, who was located at 0430 GMT on Thursday in Raeburns Gully, Deeside.

Choppy seas at Felixstowe

In Pictures: Stricken Riverdance
01 Feb 08 |  In Pictures
Ferry runs aground at Blackpool
01 Feb 08 |  Merseyside
Air rescue for ferry travellers
31 Jan 08 |  Merseyside
High winds cause travel problems
31 Jan 08 |  Scotland
Lorry driver dies in 70mph winds
31 Jan 08 |  England
Hurt climber airlifted to safety
31 Jan 08 |  North East/N Isles


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