Treacherous weather conditions were last night hampering efforts to drain 40,000 litres of oil from a cargo ship which ran aground in an environmental protection area in north Wales, as high winds and snow caused havoc across the UK.
The vessel, MV Carrier, began leaking marine gas oil after it hit rocks at Llanddulas near Colwyn Bay on Tuesday evening, when gale force winds reached up to 70mph.
Despite being stranded within just metres of the shore, two rescue helicopters were needed to haul the seven Polish crew members to safety.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the ship needed to stop moving before fuel draining could commence. The area is currently home to 10,000 sea ducks, according to the Countryside Council for Wales.
A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency was confident the leaking oil would be contained: "If more fuel were to leak from the vessel, current predictions are that it would be confined to a small area between Colwyn Bay and Rhyl. As much of the escaping gas oil is likely to evaporate and be dispersed by the sea, its environmental impact is expected to be minimal."
The sudden change from the heatwave of last week took its toll in northern England, where around 90,000 properties were left without electricity on Tuesday night after power lines were brought down by snow. Some 25,000 homes were still to be reconnected last night.
A few locations saw snow drifts 7m deep, forcing drivers in about 40 cars to sleep in their vehicles overnight on the A68 in County Durham.
The weather is predicted to improve for the Easter weekend, however.