LONDON (AFP) - Nine people who remained on board a ferry after it ran into difficulties in bad weather in the Irish Sea have been airlifted to safety, its operator said Friday.
"All nine are now safely off," said a spokesman for Seatruck Ferries Limited, which owns The Riverdance. Fourteen others were taken off the ship by helicopter late Thursday when it ran aground off Blackpool, north-west England.
The rescue operation, run by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Royal Air Force and Royal National Lifeboat Institution, involved three helicopters -- two RAF and one coastguard -- and tugboats, with one Irish helicopter.
Earlier Thursday evening, the ship had been listing at 60 degrees, and there were concerns that it would overturn.
Explaining the decision to abandon ship, the Seatruck Ferries spokesman said: "The issue was that as we approached high water the vessel started to rotate broadside on the beach.
"The high swell caused a list and, under those circumstances, the master decided safety came first."
An operation was being organised to recover the ship, he added.
The ferry was carrying trucks and trailers from Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland, to Heysham, near Blackpool in north-west England.