Strong winds across Norfolk

Coastguards battled winds of up to 70mph to rescue a stricken fishing vessel in a night which saw trees brought down across the county.

Nationwide, wind speeds in some parts topped 90mph, with widespread storm-force blasts making it too dangerous for planes to land at one airport, felling trees and power cables and causing bridge closures.

In Norfolk this morning police said a tree was halfway across the Hempnall Road at Woodton and there were also reports of a tree blocking the road at Great Witchingham.

At 1.10am this morning, Yarmouth Coastguard was called out to rescue a 20m fishing vessel which was taking on water.

The vessel, called 'Fruitful Harvest III' and which had four crew on board, was approximately 35 miles north of Cromer, where the weather was very poor, with winds of 45 knots gusting to 60 knots, and seas in excess of six metres.

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Two of the boat's pumps had failed and the third was struggling.

RAF Rescue Helicopter 128 from Leconfield was sent to the scene, arriving at 2.40am, as well as RNLI all-weather lifeboats from Cromer and Humber. All were carrying rescue pumps.

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Because weather conditions were too dangerous to lower a winchman they used a highline transfer to lower pumps to the Fruitful Harvest III.

Shortly after 3am, the pumps were successfully brought on board the vessel and the process of clearing the excess water began. The boat is now being escorted back into Grimsby by the Cromer and Humber lifeboats.

Watch Manager Mario Siano said: 'I cannot praise highly enough the skill and dedication of all involved in tonight's rescue in atrocious weather conditions.

'The crew of the rescue helicopter in particular have managed to drop a very heavy and unwieldy pump on the back of a fishing vessel in nearly 70mph winds.

'We would also like to extend our thanks to the crews of the standby vessels Putford Rover, Putford Enterprise and Putford Worker, who went out of their way to assist the search and rescue operation, not to mention the quick responses from our colleagues on the Cromer and Humber lifeboats.'

Phil Garner, from the Unviersity of East Anglia's Weatherquest said winds had reached 55mph along the north coast.

He said: 'Gradually as we go through today I think we will see the winds easing down. I think we will see lighter winds developing as we go through into the afternoon and it should stay fine and dry right the way through.

'Some patchy cloud but also some sunny spells, so it's an improving position as we go through the day.'

A woman was impaled on a branch when a falling tree hit her car in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, last night.

Planes had to be diverted from Leeds-Bradford Airport and 6,000 people in Northern Ireland were without power after winds brought down power lines.

Drivers of high-sided vehicles, caravans and motorbikes were meanwhile advised to take extra care when travelling due to the increased risk of vehicles being blown over.

Motorists faced huge delays on the A47 near Norwich yesterday after a five vehicle pile-up closed the road.

The accident happened just before the slip road to Colney at about 2.15pm.

A Norfolk police spokesman said the road was closed for about two hours.

A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service said two people were taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital with minor injuries. One person suffered a head injury while the second was 'walking wounded'.

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