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10 Rescued From British Trawler

January 5, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ Two air force helicopter teams braved a powerful Atlantic storm Sunday to rescue 10 fishermen whose crippled trawler was tossed about by waves more than 40 feet high.

The Sonia Nancy had lost its engine power about 200 miles off England’s southwest coast and was being towed by another fishing vessel when the rope broke. A storm packing winds of 75 mph moved in, preventing the vessel from reaching the Sonia Nancy again.

Rescues by air and sea were attempted after the coast guard received the emergency call Sunday morning. When those efforts failed, the air force choppers headed for the boat.

``The sea was like 20 feet of mist over the waves because it was blowing so hard ... and waves between 40 and 70 feet high _ huge,″ said Lt. Al Potter, 32, who led the rescue aboard a Sea King helicopter.

``Waves were breaking over the aft end. The engine room was flooded and they were never going to get it going again,″ Potter said.

The choppers lifted the stranded fishermen _ nine Spaniards and an Irishman _ to safety. One rescuer was slightly injured when he hit the side of the Sonia Nancy as he was being lowered onto the vessel.

In the failed rescue tries, a British air force reconnaissance aircraft dropped two life rafts, but they were lost in the high waves. A French freighter also reached the trawler but was unable to rescue the boat.

``The conditions were some of the worst that we have seen for some time in this sea area,″ said coast guard spokesman Simon Rabett.

Apparently the same storm system buffeted parts of Britain on Sunday with 115 mph winds, knocking out power to more than 100,000 homes in England and Wales.

Most train services in south Wales were canceled and police there urged motorists to stay home.

The storm damaged an aviary in central England and 40 owls escaped. Officials said the owls had been raised in captivity and could not fend for themselves.

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