Salvage crews were beaching a badly holed, waterlogged British freighter carrying hazardous cargo while Europe counted the cost of the deadly storms that battered the continent earlier in the week.

Tens of thousands of homes across Europe were still without power on Saturday.

The MSC Napoli container ship was deliberately run aground on the southwest English coast to stop it from breaking apart in the English Channel, one of the world's busiest waterways.

The 62,000-tonne cargo ship was transporting 2,394 containers, whose contents included 1,700 tonnes of hazardous industrial and agricultural chemicals.

French officials said a long oil slick had spilt from the vessel into the English Channel.

"The MSC Napoli has suffered serious structural failure," said the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency. "The large cracks on both sides of the ship have worsened. The stern of the ship is gradually settling lower in the water and deteriorating.

"Risk assessments have been carried out and continually updated. The priority is to gain as much shelter as possible and keep the vessel in one piece. Therefore the decision has been made to beach the vessel and ballast it down east of Sidmouth.

"The beaching location was selected based on minimising the impact of any spillage and enabling salvage work to remove the vessel and cargo to take place," the MCA said.

The 275-metre (900-foot) container ship developed long gashes on both sides just above the water line during stormy weather on Thursday and has since been under tow.

Television footage showed the ship, registered in London and owned by the Swiss Mediterranean Shipping Company, with its stern low in the water close to the shoreline in Lyme Bay.

The Napoli was being hauled by two French tug boats, whose progress was hampered by rough seas and the cargo ship's jammed rudder.

When the engine room flooded and the vessel began listing badly, the 26-man crew abandoned ship. Three British Sea King helicopters winched them to safety from their lifeboat in nine-metre (30-feet) high waves and flew them to a navy base in southern England.

Calmer weather returned to Europe on Saturday but tens of thousands of homes in England, Germany and apparently Poland were still without power.

Around 19,000 households in eastern England had no electricity.

In Germany, where the storms claimed 11 lives, around 12,000 of the 60,000 homes whose power was cut were still in the dark, 10,000 of them in the central state of Thuringia.

"Our objective is to reconnect all the 55 areas concerned between now and this evening," said Olaf Werner, a spokesman for German energy group E.ON.

German rail services were largely back to normal after the appalling weather forced the Deutsche Bahn national railway company on Thursday to suspend all services for the first time in its history.

In Poland -- where the storms killed six and injured 30, including nine emergency service workers -- it was unclear how many households were still in the dark.

"There is no information on the number of homes still without electricity this morning but on Friday afternoon, 800,000 were without power," fire brigade spokesman Dariusz Malinowski told AFP.

The new terminal of Warsaw's Okecia airport, which had been damaged, remained partially closed.

The Netherlands was also counting the cost of the storms, which killed seven there.

Insurers in the low-lying kingdom said their bill could come to at least 160 million euros (208 million dollars). That sum did not include damage to Amsterdam's Schiphol airport and the railways, which could add another 40 million euros to the bill.

In Ukraine, the emergency situations ministry said one woman had been killed on Friday by a falling tree, power lines had been damaged and telephone connections severed.

Russian oil deliveries to European Union countries were interrupted on Friday after high winds knocked out electricity at a pumping station on the section of a pipeline that transits Ukraine.