Rescue helicopters were battling severe winds on Saturday to airlift more than 1,300 people off a Viking Cruises’ ship that issued a distressed call after an engine failure off the coast of Norway.
Of the 1,300 stranded, 915 were passengers on the Viking Cruises’ ship called The Viking Sky, Norway’s Rescue Coordination Centre told Media. The ship can house 930 guests and was built in 2017, according to the company’s website.
The initial mayday was received by the agency at 2 p.m. local time, a Viking spokesman said. Currently, the cruise ship is close to shore and has one engine working and one anchor holding. Rescuers hope to get two other engines working.
“Our first priority was for the safety and well-being 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,” the spokesman said in a statement.
Four helicopters were involved in the operations, and at least 87 people have been hoisted off, including eight with injuries, the agency said.
The ship’s owner, Viking Ocean Cruises, said 20 people were injured, although some had been quickly treated and released.
Some of the 479 passengers who were airlifted to shore were scheduled to begin flying home Sunday, the company said. Another 436 passengers and the crew of 458 remained aboard while the ship headed toward port.
“Today was some of the worst (conditions) I have been involved with, but now it looks like it’s going well and in the end we have been lucky,” company Chairman Torstein Hagen told Norway’s NRK television.
Norwegian media reported gusts up to 43 mph and waves over 26 feet. Passengers took to social media to share their experiences and the activity onboard as the rescue unfolded
Alexus Sheppard posted a video on Twitter of severe tilting due to the rough waters. “We’re waiting for evacuation by helicopter,” she wrote with the hashtags #VikingSky and #Mayday.
David Hernandez posted a video showing the ship has taken in some water with it running under passengers’ feet.
Police in the western county of Moere og Romsdal said the ship managed to anchor in Hustadsvika Bay, between the western Norwegian cities of Alesund and Trondheim, so the evacuations could begin. But by Sunday the ship had three of four engines operating, the company said.
The Viking Sky was on a 12-day trip that began March 14 in the western Norwegian city of Bergen, according to cruisemapper.com. The ship was scheduled to arrive Tuesday in the British port of Tilbury on the River Thames.
The Viking Sky, a vessel with gross tonnage of 47,800, was delivered in 2017 to operator Viking Ocean Cruises.
Earlier this month, several passengers aboard a Norwegian Escape cruise ship were injured off the coast of Florida after what Norwegian Cruise Line officials described as a “sudden, extreme gust of wind” made the ship list.