Injured ship's captain airlifted in rough seas

LONDON (Reuters) - Fresh attempts to winch the captain of a cargo ship battered by heavy seas off the Isles of Scilly on Saturday proved successful, but blizzards continued to cause havoc on land and sea.

The skipper of the Horncliff was taken to hospital after suffering spinal injuries and internal bleeding as his Liberian-registered vessel struggled in Force 9 winds off southwest England.

Earlier attempts by RAF rescue teams to airlift him on Friday had to be abandoned as sea swells of up to 30 feet tossed the ship in stormy seas.

Six other people were winched to safety including two suffering from minor hand and head injuries.

About 60 containers, believed to hold bananas and melons, had fallen overboard as the Horncliff rolled about.

Blizzards, whipped up by winds of up to 70 mph, continued to lash northern parts of Britain.

Thousands of homes were without electricity and dozens of snowbound vehicles were abandoned overnight.

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Temperatures fell to minus 11 Celsius in parts of Scotland overnight while the mercury was expected to hover around minus 3 degrees in northern England on Saturday.

Snow and ice were forecast for the Highlands, Northern Ireland, western areas and the north of England, but the Midlands and eastern England were expected to be fine, if frosty.

Horncliff was the latest ship to run into difficulties in heavy seas around Britain’s coast.

Attempts to salvage the ferry Riverdance aground off Blackpool since Thursday, were postponed because of the bad weather.

There were fears that a Spanish trawler that ran aground off St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides on Friday could pose an environmental hazard if the rats believed to be on board reached shore, a spokeswoman for the National Trust for Scotland told BBC radio.

The islands are a World Heritage Site and the most important seabird breeding station in northwest Europe.

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Home to puffins, it is free of ground-based predators.

Editing by Andrew Dobbie and Jeremy Lovell