Numerous reports this weekend detailed the immense evacuation of the Viking Sky cruise ship that took place off the coast of Norway after the luxury cruise liner suffered engine problems and was resultantly left adrift in stormy seas, leading to hundreds of passengers being emergency airlifted from the vessel.
Watch the Viking Sky evacuation video here.
The cruise ship was on a 12-day trip that began on 14 March, travelling from Norway’s Arctic north to Stavanger in the south of the country, carrying 1,373 passengers and crew. The engine began to encounter problems on Saturday 23 March, and the ship subsequently fell victim to the rough waters and rocky coastline. The ship issued a mayday call on Saturday afternoon and Norway’s Joint Rescue Coordination Center sent in five helicopters to rescue the stranded passengers and crew.
Coast Guard official Emil Heggelund explained that the ship was within 100 metres (300 feet) of striking rocks under the water and 900 metres (2,950 feet) from shore when it stopped and anchored in Hustadvika Bay so passengers could be evacuated.
It was reported that the helicopters first winched passengers with injuries or disabilities and that the rescue went on all night and into Sunday morning, with a total of 479 people being airlifted to land. The rescues took place under difficult conditions, including wind gusts up to 43 mph and waves over 26-feet high. Photos posted on social media showed the ship listing from side to side and furniture smashing violently into walls.
The remaining 463 passengers and crew remained on board, as, just before midday on Sunday, the ship captain decided to steer the ship towards the nearby port of Molde using the ship’s regained engine power and the assistance of a tug boat and two other vessels. Einar Knudsen of Norway's Joint Rescue Coordination Center noted: "The conditions were good enough for the captain to have no more evacuations."
Viking Ocean Cruises – the company that owns and operates the ship – said: "We understand 20 people suffered injuries as a result of this incident, and they are all receiving care at the relevant medical centres in Norway, with some already having been discharged."
Passengers and witnesses have praised the rescue work of the responders, including Viking Cruises chairman Torstein Hagen, who also said that he was very proud of the crew. Passenger Beth Clark said: "I can't get over how magnificent the crew was on the ship, the National Guard and how kind the Norway folks have been. It's just shocking how wonderful people are."
The next departure, which was scheduled for Wednesday 27 March, has been cancelled. Norway's Accident Investigations Board said the ship would remain in Molde, pending an investigation.