A Norwegian cruise ship carrying more than 1,300 people has made it to port a day after rescue teams airlifted half of its passengers off the troubled vessel, leaving several hundred other holidaymakers stranded.
Accompanied by tug boats, the Viking Sky cruise ship docked into Molde harbor, western Norway, on Sunday (local time), after wind gusts of up to 70km/h and seas as high as 6-8 meters caused its engines to fail.
Of the 1373 passengers on board, 479 people were airlifted from the ship after Viking Sky issued a mayday call.
Afraid of dashing up on the rocks, the crew anchored amid heavy seas and high winds and an operation began to evacuate everyone on board.
Helicopter video from the evacuation of 1,300 passengers from the Viking Sky cruise ship off the coast of Norway. The vessel has been able to restart one of the engines and is now anchored two kilometres from land. https://t.co/tUBm6A04pN pic.twitter.com/BzRDcX9fuJ
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A strong storm with high waves prevented rescue workers from using life boats or tug boats to retrieve passengers who had already suited up in orange life vests.
“Window panes were broken and water came in,” American passenger John Curry said.
Five helicopters flying in the pitch dark evacuated passengers from the heaving ship throughout the night into Sunday morning.
The ship, which still had 436 guests and 458 crew, sailed to Molde harbor on Sunday morning when it regained some engine power.
American passenger Jan Terbruegen recounted the scenes on board the Viking Sky to CNN.
“Furniture would slide across the room, slide back and with it came people and glass. It was a very dangerous situation frankly,” Mr Terbruegen said.
“We could see that we were getting blown in towards some rocks. That was the most frightening thing I think. But luckily that wasn’t our destiny.”
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Viking Cruises said 20 people suffered injuries, with those hurt receiving treatment in Norway.
“Throughout all of this, our first priority was for the safety and wellbeing of our passengers and our crew,” Viking Cruises said in a statement.
The operator’s chairman Torstein Hagen told Norway’s VG newspaper the events were “some of the worst I have been involved in, but now it looks like it’s going well in the end and that we’ve been lucky”.
“I am very proud of our crew,” added the shipping tycoon, who is one of Norway’s richest men.
Footage online showed the ship rocking dramatically, debris falling from the ceiling, and furniture including chairs sliding across the floor as passengers sat waiting to be rescued.
Britons Derek and Esther Browne said the “whole boat was swaying” and it was “very rough”.
“We had a few people on stretchers, several with cuts, two with broken limbs, but fortunately we were alright,” Derek Browne told BBC Radio.
“We were airlifted onto the helicopter which was quite a frightening experience.”
Norwegian media said the majority of the cruise ship passengers were British and American tourists.