Storm Imogen: Heavy seas and high winds force Dublin-bound ferry to take shelter off UK coast
MORE than 100 passengers are on a ferry sailing between France and Ireland which has been forced to take shelter off the UK coast.
Heavy seas and winds blowing at up to Force 11 meant the Irish Ferries ship Epsilon, sailing from Cherbourg to Dublin, had to divert into safer waters.
The economy class service is taking shelter at sea in waters off the north Devon coast.
The sailing was due to arrive at the Irish capital at 11am on Monday morning, but has been delayed until at least Tuesday morning.
A spokesman for Irish Ferries said the 110 passengers onboard could be delayed even further depending on the outcome of Storm Imogen.
"It is not expected to arrive back in Dublin until the very early hours of tomorrow (Tuesday) morning or perhaps even later tomorrow," he added.
The spokesman said passengers were being provided with meals.
On land, power crews were attempting to restore electricity to thousands of homes in the south and south-west after the latest storm's near-hurricane winds caused widespread blackouts.
Some of the worst affected areas were rural parts of Kerry and Cork with more than 1,400 homes and businesses in the Macroom area left without electricity and about 1,000 in the Rathmore area at the counties' border.
ESB Networks had reports of power outages in the wake of the storm from more than two dozens locations.
At its overnight peak along the south coast, Imogen - the ninth winter Atlantic storm - was bringing hurricane force winds to Sherkin Island off Cork, the Fastnet Rock and the Kinsale gas rigs.
Waves at least 30 feet high were also recorded by Met Eireann's weather buoys in the Atlantic.
Fastnet lighthouse recorded some of the highest winds including sustained hurricane force speeds and gusts of up to 196km/h or 121mph.
Met Eireann had forecast that westerly winds would hit average speeds of 65 to 75km/h with gusts of 100 to 130km/h, and conditions would be strongest along the coast and on hills.
At the height of the blackouts about 5,000 homes and businesses were left without power in Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Waterford and Wexford.
"We are hoping to get everyone back by today," an ESB spokeswoman said.
In the aftermath of the storm road users were being warned of fallen trees and power lines while people in coastal areas were being warned of the dangers of extreme wave heights of up to 45 feet in some parts of the south coast.