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26 flee sinking ship as storm batters UK

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LONDON, England (Reuters) -- British and French rescue services have rushed to pick up 26 sailors forced to abandon their container ship after it began sinking in stormy seas in the Channel, the coastguard said.

The MSC Napoli was on the French side of the Channel when "somehow she became holed on the starboard side and was taking water", a Falmouth coastguard spokesman said.

"The 26 crew have abandoned the vessel into a large boat. We're not sure of the state of the ship now, if she's still above (water) or not," he said.

One French and two British helicopters and one British and one French tug were en route to the scene in up to nine metre high waves.

Winds of up to 100 mph (160 kph) battered much of Britain on Thursday, causing transport havoc and damaging buildings.

More than 100 flights at London's Heathrow airport were cancelled and 25,000 homes across southern England were without electricity after gales brought down power lines.

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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