Norway airlifts more than one thousand passengers off SOS cruise ship.
A dramatic airlift is underway to rescue 1300 passengers in extreme weather from a powerless cruise ship that has been battered to within 100m of the Norwegian coast.
Vessel broke down in rough seas off Norway with 1,300 passengers and crew on board, leading to evacuations by helicopter
The Norwegian cruise ship Viking Sky was limping to safety on Sunday morning amid a continuing dramatic rescue operation that saw hundreds of people winched off by helicopters as the powerless vessel was tossed on rough seas.
The ship carrying 1,300 passengers and crew broke down off the Norwegian coast on Saturday. Video and photos from passengers showed chairs and other furniture rolling dangerously across the floor and parts of the ceiling falling down as the vessel was tossed about. Passengers were wearing orange life vests but the waves broke some of the windows and cold water poured over their feet.
On Sunday morning, authorities said the vessel had restarted three of its four engines. A spokeswoman for Viking Cruises said: “The ship is proceeding on its own power and a tugboat is on site. The evacuation is proceeding with all necessary caution.”
Police said more than 330 of the 1,373 people on board had been taken off by Sunday morning, with each helicopter able to take 15-20 people per trip. The airlift was continuing early Sunday, emergency services spokesman Per Fjeld said.
On Saturday, rescue workers launched an emergency operation to airlift passengers and crew, with helicopters winching them from the deck one by one amid large waves and high winds.
The Norwegian newspaper VG said the ship issued a mayday call when bad weather hit and engine problems caused it to start drifting towards the rocky shore. Police in the western county of Møre og Romsdal said the crew, fearing that the ship would run aground, managed to anchor off the coast near the town of Alesund so that evacuations could take place.
Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances. Norwegian media reported gusts of up to 38 knots (43 mph) and waves over 8 metres (26 feet) in an area known for its rough, frigid waters.
Norwegian public broadcaster NRK said the Viking Sky’s evacuation was a slow and dangerous process, as passengers needed to be hoisted one by one from the cruise ship to the five available helicopters.
“I was afraid. I’ve never experienced anything so scary,” Janet Jacob, among the first group of passengers evacuated to the nearby town of Molde, told NRK. She said her helicopter ride to safety came amid strong winds “like a tornado”, prompting her to pray “for the safety of all aboard”.