British Crews Rescue 37 People From Two Ships, Third Vessel Also in Trouble

Rescue workers airlifted 37 people from two vessels that ran aground off Britain's northwestern coast during storms with gale force winds and massive waves, officials said Friday.

On Friday night, a third vessel — a freighter — got in trouble in high seas off southwest England, and the Royal Air Force was sending a helicopter to rescue a crew member who suffered spinal injuries, Sky News TV reported. The freighter lost some of its cargo and was pumping water from the vessel near the Scilly Isles, Sky said.

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Earlier Friday, helicopters rescued the 14-member Spanish crew of the Spinning Dale trawler on rocks off St. Kilda in Scotland's Western Isles, coast guard spokesman Fred Caygill said. Two of the crew were later treated at a British hospital for hypothermia.

Late Thursday and early Friday, the coast guard successfully airlifted 23 people off a ferry that ran aground near England's Blackpool beach resort soon after a freak wave left it listing on its side, Caygill said.

The Spaniards were trapped on the rocks under a cliff at St. Kilda, an uninhabited volcanic archipelago. The gale-force winds swirling around the cliff made it difficult for a helicopter to approach, Caygill said.

The trawler sent a distress call at 0520 GMT as strong Force 9 gales — with winds ranging from 76-87 kph (47-54 mph) — lashed the island. Caygill said the winds were approaching Force 11 — a violent storm with winds of 88-102 kph (55-63 mph) — by 0900 GMT.

In the other incident, the Riverdance ferry ran into trouble Thursday night and three helicopters soon arrived to begin rescuing those on board.

At one point the ferry, which carried cargo and passengers, was listing at 45 degrees in 70 mph (110 kph) winds and 23-foot (seven-meter) waves, the coast guard said.

Some crew members remained aboard the ferry during the rescue operation to try to stabilize the vessel's cargo and restart its engines. They were still with the ferry when it ran aground, but were later taken off.

A salvage operation was under way Friday, Caygill said.