The RNLI’s Flood Rescue Team was called out to help people trapped in their homes by floodwater in Cumbria as Storm Desmond swept torrential rain and gale force winds across northern England, North Wales, parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland on Dec 5-6.
After operating in the Kendal area overnight, members of the team used four boats to evacuate more than 300 people in Carlisle on Dec 6.
During the bad weather of Dec 5, Humber Coastguard requested the launch at 2330 of the Tynemouth RNLI allweather lifeboat Spirit of Northumberland after the engine of the cross-Tyne Shields ferry Spirit of the Tyne failed near the end of her final river crossing of the day from North Shields to South Shields.
As the Severn class lifeboat was being launched, the Port of Tyne pilot launch Collingwood managed to evacuate the three passengers and a crew member from the ferry, leaving just the skipper who was desperately trying to get the ferry’s engine restarted.
The drifting ferry was carried several hundred yards downriver by the powerful wind and current until she was caught on the river bank.
The lifeboat approached the ferry and in a difficult operation, the crew managed to get a tow rope attached and the lifeboat then pulled the ferry away from the rocks, almost becoming grounded herself in the extreme wind. The lifeboat towed the ferry back to the South Shields ferry landing and almost had her secured when the tow rope parted after becoming snagged on the ferry landing. The wind again blew the powerless ferry away from the landing.
Eventually the lifeboat crew got the ferry under tow again and assisted by the crew of the pilot launch, got her safely tied up on the landing.