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Storm battered ship grounded on English coast Author:Jeremy Lovell Date:03/25/14 Click:

LONDON (Reuters) - Passengers and non-essential crew were airlifted off a ferry that had been at risk of capsizing in the Irish Sea during a storm on Thursday and later ran aground, coastguards said.

The Riverdance was hit by a freak wave 8 miles off the northwestern coast of England on Thursday evening and its cargo shifted in high winds.

Coastguards said the ship, a roll-on-roll-off cargo and passenger vessel operated by Seatruck Ferries, ran aground next to the seaside resort of Blackpool shortly before midnight.

"It is basically on Blackpool beach now," a coastguard spokeswoman said. "There are now just seven essential crew left on board. Everyone else has been taken to safety."

The crew comprised 15 Poles and four Britons. Four passengers had been on board. There were no reports of injuries.

The crew remaining on board were working to ballast the vessel to improve its stability, a coastguard statement said, adding there was "no reported oil pollution from the vessel."

A Royal Airforce spokesman said the rescue conditions had been "the worst you could ever think it could be, and then some more."

Winds of Storm Force 10 were reported, meaning up to 60 mph, with gusts taking the figure higher, and waves of more than 20 feet.

The Irish Sea between Britain and Ireland is notoriously rough in stormy weather.

It was not immediately known what freight the boat was carrying.

The coastguard statement said Riverdance was Bahamas registered and of 6,041 gross tonnage.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

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