Sunday, March 24th 2019, 4:21 pm - Now the evacuation has been completed, the Viking Sky has returned to port
A dire ordeal has concluded for the hundreds of people forced to evacuate a disabled cruise ship off the rugged Norwegian Coast.
The cruise ship Viking Sky experienced engine troubles in rough weather on Saturday, prompting it to send out a distress call. Video uploaded to social media by passengers aboard showed the ship rocking wildly amid 8 to 10-metre seas.
Hundreds of passengers were evacuated amid feverish efforts to bring the engines back online.
On Sunday morning, Viking Cruises, which operates the ship, reported the ship was once again moving under its own power, and was making its way to the port of Molde with the help of two supply ships and a tugboat. The evacuation has come to an end, with 436 passengers and 458 crew still aboard. The ship arrived in port early on Sunday.
"The 479 passengers who were airlifted from the vessel are currently on shore and arrangements have been made to fly them home, with the first passengers leaving today," the cruise line said in a statement Sunday. "Currently 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."
The ship's next scheduled cruise on March 27 has been cancelled.
The Viking Sky wasn't the only ship that needed help in the region. The freighter Hagland Captain, with a crew of nine, also ran into engine trouble amid rough seas. The Associated Press says two of the five helicopters that had been carrying out the evacuation of the Viking Sky were diverted to assist.
DIFFICULT RESCUE IN ROUGH SEAS, ROCKY COAST
While the evacuation was ongoing, the same difficult weather that worsened the ship's predicament made for a difficult rescue. Rescue teams were forced use helicopters to access the ship making the evacuation process a "slow and harrowing one," as each passenger must be hoisted from the ship aboard one of five rescue helicopters
"It's a demanding exercise, because they (passengers) have to hang in the air under a helicopter and there's a very, very strong wind," witness Odd Roar Lange told Norwegian media outlet NRK at the site, according to the Associated Press.
The evacuation was treated as a race against time, in an area of the famously rocky Norwegian coast that has been called a "shipyard cemetary." One fisherman judged the ship's plight as "just minutes before this could have gone really wrong," the BBC reports.
The ship could have hit the rocks "if they had not started the engine and fastened the anchor."