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Last Updated: Friday, 1 February 2008, 13:20 GMT
Sea rescues amid stormy weather
Grounded ferry on beach near Blackpool
The ferry rescue was filmed from an RAF helicopter

Stormy weather has left rescuers battling high seas to the north and west of Britain after a ferry and trawler both ran aground.

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

And 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.

A Rotterdam-based salvage team is on its way to Blackpool after a huge wave smashed into the Riverdance, the grounded ferry off the Lancashire coast, as it crossed the Irish Sea at about 2000GMT last night.

Grounded ferry on beach near Blackpool

The freight vessel which had been taking trucks from Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland to the port of Heysham in Lancashire began listing at an angle of 60 degrees off the coast.

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

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

Several other areas of the country are also bracing themselves for bad weather. Forecasters predict there will be snow in the north east of England as well as Yorkshire and Cumbria starting around lunchtime.

Later in the day the snow will reach Lincolnshire and East Anglia.

Motorists across the country have already been hit by high winds which have caused several accidents.

Meanwhile, southern parts of the UK are seeing few signs of the bad weather, with most areas bathed in sunshine.

BBC forecaster Tomasz Schafernaker said Scotland could expect gales and 20cm to 30cm of snow across the hills, but added "this is not unusual" for the region.

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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