Helicopters have rescued more than 150 people from a cruise ship that suffered an engine failure in windy weather off the coast of Norway on Saturday, said police and rescue services.The Viking Sky, with 1,373 passengers and crew on board, had sent out a mayday signal as it drifted towards land, said the country's maritime rescue service.
The ship was carrying 915 passengers, of which a large number came from the United States and the UK, said rescue services.
The vessel was later able to restart one of the engines and was anchored about two kilometers from land and no longer adrift, rescue services told Reuters.
Passengers were hoisted one by one from the deck of the ship and airlifted to a village located to the north of the town of Molde on the Norwegian west coast.
About 155 people had been evacuated by 10:40 pm CET, said rescue service spokesman Per Fjeld. Eight of those evacuated had suffered light injuries.
Facilities to accommodate the passengers have been set up on land, said rescue services. The Norwegian Red Cross tweeted it was sending 60 volunteers to help the rescue services.
American passenger John Curry said he was having lunch when the ship began to shake. Window panes were broken and water came in. It was just chaos. The trip on the helicopter, I would rather forget, it was not fun, Curry told public broadcaster RNK.
Another passenger, Alexus Sheppard, shared a dramatic video on her Twitter that showed furniture sliding around as the ship drifted in waves of up to eight meters. She told Euronews at 10:12 pm CET that they were still waiting for evacuation.
The cruise ship belongs to the Viking Ocean Cruises company founded by Norwegian billionaire businessman Torstein Hagen. It has a capacity of 930 according to the company website.
Our first priority was for the safety and wellbeing of our passengers and our crew, and in close cooperation with the Norwegian Coast Guard, the captain decided to evacuate all guests from the vessel by helicopter, Viking Cruises said in a statement to Reuters.
The evacuation is proceeding with all necessary caution, the company added. Guests are being accommodated in local hotels when they arrive back on shore, and Viking will arrange for return flights for all guests.
A freight ship with a crew of nine was also evacuated after engine failure, which diverted helicopters and delayed the rescue operations, said emergency services.
Waves were six to eight meters high, with wind blowing at 24 meters per second, according to the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. The storm is expected to last at least until midnight local time.
The stretch of water known as Hustadvika is known for its bad weather and shallow waters with reefs. The Norwegian government is considering building a giant ocean tunnel through a nearby mountain to improve safety. (Agencies)