Rescuers airlift stranded cruise ship passengers off the coast of Norway.
A cruise ship stranded off Norway’s western coast has reached port with its remaining passengers.
The Viking Sky ship airlifted more than half its 900 passengers to safety before authorities opted Sunday to allow the ship to limp into the nearby port of Molde with the aid of a towboat.
“All passengers and crew are safe, and passengers will be flying home starting tonight,” the cruise line said in a statement on its website Sunday. “Throughout all of this, our first priority was for the safety and well-being of our passengers and our crew. We would like to thank the Norwegian Redningssentral and the Norwegian emergency services for their support and skill displayed in managing the situation in very challenging weather conditions.”
The cruise line’s next sailing, which had been set for Wednesday, has been canceled.
Viking Sky issued a mayday Saturday after engine troubles and a harrowing encounter with rough waters and high winds off Norway’s western coast.
Carolyn Savikas of Pennsylvania described the terror to Norway’s VG newspaper, saying she heard a “terrible crash” and the ship rocked. Water raced in.
“We were in the restaurant when a really huge wave came and shattered a door and flooded the entire restaurant,” she said. “All I saw were bones, arms, water and tables. It was like the Titanic – just like the pictures you have seen from the Titanic.”
Authorities said the weather and sea conditions prevented rescue workers from using lifeboats or other vessels to evacuate the ship. Five helicopters shuttled the passengers to shore.
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The ship’s owner, Viking Ocean Cruises, said 20 people were injured, although some had been treated and released.
Some of the 479 passengers who were flown 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 as the rescue unfolded.
Alexus Sheppard posted a video on Twitter of severe tilting because of the rough waters. “We’re waiting for evacuation by helicopter,” she wrote with the hashtags #VikingSky and #Mayday.
David Hernandez posted a video showing water 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, a vessel with gross tonnage of 47,800, was delivered to Viking Ocean Cruises in 2017. The ship was on a 12-day trip that began March 14 in the western Norwegian city of Bergen, according to cruisemapper.com.
The ship had been scheduled to arrive Tuesday in the British port of Tilbury on the River Thames.
“The last 24 hours have been very, very scary, very frightening,” an American passenger, Rodney Horgen, told NRK. “The best word I suppose is surreal.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
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