Motorists stranded in snow rescued

Around 300 people have been rescued from vehicles including a school bus after they got stuck in snow on a mountain road in Northern Ireland.

Heavy snow and strong winds wreaked havoc in several parts of Northern Ireland, with snowdrifts and fallen trees closing a large number of roads.

A joint operation was launched by the police, coastguard, mountain rescue and Department of Environment to save motorists stranded in snow on the Glenshane Pass - a main route between Belfast and Londonderry. Snowdrifts of up to 3ft in height swept across the area.

The stranded motorists and schoolchildren were given shelter at two evacuation centres in Maghera and Dungiven, in County Derry.

Police Chief Inspector Steve Cargin, who coordinated the rescue plan, said: "Really frightening conditions, not only for my officers and our support people, but for those people who were stranded in cars for such a long period of time, especially a bus-load of schoolchildren.

"Conditions - really strong gale-force winds, blizzards, snowdrifts of up to four feet. One of my officers said they saw this bump in the road and then realised it was actually a car. It was completely covered in snow."

Meanwhile, electricity to around 50,000 homes was cut due to the "treacherous blizzard conditions".

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