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Rescuers launched Oban’s lifeboat in gale force winds as Storm Aiden battered down, wreaking havoc and damage along coastline and inland at the weekend.
A boat out fishing with four people onboard sent out an SOS when the 22ft vessel they were in broke down and went adrift in Loch Etive, west of Airds Point, just before 4pm on Saturday.
In driving rain and winds gusting 60mph, the lifeboat’s volunteer crew fought through heavy seas to reach the stricken boat that had managed to secure itself a mooring at a nearby fish farm to wait for help.
A tow was set up and a work boat from the fish farm was also on scene.
Once the fishing boat was safely clear of the farm, the lifeboat towed it back to Taynuilt Pier where the group had started out from earlier in the day, launching with a trailer.
But an extremely high tide meant the pier was mostly submerged and it was clear that getting the boat back to its trailer, or the persons on board ashore, would pose further danger.
‘With no other shelter in the area, the decision was made to secure the boat to a mooring in Airds Bay and take the persons on board the lifeboat for the journey home.
The lifeboat proceeded out of the loch and into Dunstaffnage marina where Oban’s Coastguard Rescue Team were on scene to assist as the persons on board were transferred ashore, by 6.30pm,’ said Ally Cerexhe, Oban lifeboats coxswain.
The rescue mission triggered Mr Cerexhe to urge others to think twice before heading out to water in such conditions.
He said: ‘Please take extra care when visiting the coast and think twice about heading out on the water in these conditions. Although the lochs may appear to provide some shelter, the strong winds and high tides still pose the same risk. If do see anyone in difficulty, remember to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.’
As daylight appeared on Sunday, homes and businesses across Oban and the Lorn area were waking up to assess the damage and count the cost of yesterday’s storm.
Over on Luing, some houses in Cullipool were flooded, with a slate wall and wooden gate demolished by the ferocity of the waves.
Waves lashed Oban’s Esplanade, strewing seaweed across the road and tossing boats on their moorings. Emergency services were called to the Lancaster Hotel after part of its roof collapsed and the road had to be sealed off for safety.
Some roads experienced flooding, Kilmore and Seil was hit – Balvicar Stores became an island at one point surrounded by water while waves swept over the ferry hut at Ellenabeich pier.
Among other reports of damage were reports of trees down – a tree came down on the road between Taynuilt and Kilchrenan, and out at Benderloch, and Ganavan, waves bashed up onto the layby wiping out the beach for a time.
SSE engineers got across to Lismore later on Sunday morning to restore power to the island after it cut out the day before.
When the engineers got the job done they had missed the official final ferry back to Appin but an extra service across choppy waters was put on to get them safely home.