Two ships in distress off Irish coast in severe storm conditions

Winds of up 120 km/h recorded in Co Galway while Storm Erik closes Salthill promenade

Cars have been left stranded in flood water after Storm Erik made its presence felt in Salthill, Co Galway. Video: Joe O'Shaughnessy

 

Two ships disabled in major storm related incidents off the Irish coast on Friday are expected into port on Saturday morning.

An Irish trawler and a large Russian factory ship both got into trouble in severe conditions brought on by Storm Erik off the west coast.

The ships were being escorted in by other fishing vessels under the close eye of the Coast Guard.

On Friday the storm brought high seas with waves more than 10m high and gusts of more than 100km/h around Galway, Mayo and Donegal.

A wind speed of 120km/h was recorded at 6am at Mace Head in Co Galway. The promenade at Salthill, a well known focal point of coastal storms, was temporarily closed due to high winds.

During the morning a 26-metre Irish trawler alerted the Coast Guard after it was hit by a giant wave about 160km west of Dingle. It sustained major damage, having its windows blown in and losing electrics and navigational capacity. No injuries were reported.

On Friday night the vessel was under slow escort north to its base at Rossaveel harbour in Co Galway by another fishing vessel which was plotting its course and maintaining communications via handheld radios. It was expected to land at about 8am.

In a separate incident at about 7am, a Russian factory ship – measuring about 110 metres and with 91 crew – began to drift when its propeller was disabled. While no cause is yet known, propellers are typically put out of action when they get tangled in nets or other objects.

The boat, which was one of about 10 Russian factory ships processing mackerel just over 320km west of Ireland, was being monitored by UK Coast Guard who remained in contact with Irish counterparts.

On Friday night, it lay off the coast waiting for the weather to pass before a tow line could be attached by one of its sister ships. They are expected to arrive in Castletownbere harbour in Cork some time on Saturday.

Divisional controller Derek Flanagan told RTÉ’s News at One the Coastguard rescue coordination centre in Valentia was dealing with the two incidents.

“Our biggest concern is the danger that these waves represent to the vessels, the likelihood of injury to crews working aboard these vessels is increased quite a lot as they try to contend with those weather conditions,” he said.

“There’s about 20 of those very large vessels working in an area about 200 miles off the coast at the minute. They’ve decided to work through this weather, they’re used to it, to these conditions all the time, they know that these storms pass quickly, they ride out the weather until conditions get better then start fishing again.”

He added that quite a few other large vessels have taken refuge in places like Sheephaven and Donegal, having decided not to risk damage that might be caused.

“We expect the weather to be like this for the next 12-36 hours.”

Met Éireann said an orange wind warning was in place for Donegal until 6am on Saturday. The winds will gradually abate during the day when more pleasant general conditions are expected.