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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 March, 2004, 16:26 GMT
Mass rescue from river boat race
One of the sinking boats
High winds swamped the boats with water during the race
Forty people had to be rescued from the River Thames after severe weather struck during a boat race.

At least two people, one with severe hypothermia, have been taken to hospital for treatment.

Lifeboats were called to the 22nd Vesta International Veterans' Head of River Race at about 1300 GMT after vessels took in water.

About 145 boats were taking part in the race between Putney and Mortlake, in south-west London.

Eric Reynolds, secretary of the Putney-based Vesta Rowing Club which organised the event, said: "It is not unusual for boats to sink. It is part of the sport.

The rescue boat - copyright BigBlade
The Thames rescue, photograph by BigBlade
"They took on more water than they had buoyancy."

The police Marine Rescue Service was also called in to help the Royal National Life Boat Institute (RNLI) with the rescue.

Some crew members were taken to a nearby rowing club for treatment, Scotland Yard said.

> It is thought those rescued were in their 40s or 50s.

Elsewhere, a helicopter search was launched by coastguards on Sunday afternoon after a swimmer was reported missing in gale force winds in Cornwall.

The swimmer was last seen off Sennen Cove, near Land's End.

Coastguards said the weather was appalling, with winds of more than 40mph.

In other parts of England, power workers were restoring electricity supplies to thousands of homes cut off during the gales on Saturday.

The worst affected areas were in the Midlands, the East and the North.

Couple killed by tree

Many people were warned they might have to wait until Monday for power, because of the extent of the damage.

The storms claimed three lives, and may have been responsible for more deaths.

A football fan was hit by flying debris in Leicester and a couple were crushed when a tree fell on their car in Suffolk.

A woman was killed and baby seriously injured in a car crash on the M1 near Leeds, in weather conditions described as atrocious.

Other people were injured by flying debris, falling trees and dislodged masonry.

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