Passengers have been winched one-by-one from a cruise ship tossed side-to-side by heaving waves in a wild storm.
Rescue workers of Norway’s western coast rushed to evacuate the 1300 passengers and crew from a disabled cruise ship by helicopter on Saturday (local time).
The Norwegian newspaper VG said the Viking Sky cruise ship issued a mayday call as bad weather hit and engine problems caused it to start drifting toward the rocky shore.
Video and photos from people on-board show the ship being tossed by the waves as chairs and other furniture dangerously rolling from side-to-side.
Police in the western county of Moere og Romsdal said the crew, fearing the ship would run aground, managed to anchor in Hustadsvika Bay, between the Norwegian cities of Alesund and Trondheim, so the evacuations could take place.
Passengers were suited up in orange life vests but the waves broke some ship windows and cold water flowed over the feet of some passengers.
Norwegian public broadcaster NRK said the Viking Sky’s evacuation was a slow and dangerous process as passengers needed to be hoisted one-by-one from the cruise ship to the five available helicopters.
‘It was just chaos’
“I was afraid. I’ve never experienced anything so scary,” Janet Jacob, among the first group of passengers evacuated to the nearby town of Molde, told NRK.
She said her helicopter ride to safety came amid strong winds “like a tornado”, prompting her to pray “for the safety of all aboard”.
American passenger John Curry told NRK he was having lunch as the cruise ship started to shake.
“It was just chaos. The helicopter ride from the ship to shore I would rather not think about. It wasn’t nice,” he told the broadcaster.
NRK said one 90-year-old-man and his 70-year-old spouse on the ship were severely injured, but did not say how that happened.
Norwegian media said the majority of the cruise ship passengers were British and American tourists.
Authorities told NRK a strong storm with high waves was preventing rescue workers from using lifeboats or tug boats to take passengers ashore.
“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 NRK at the site.
Norwegian authorities said late on Saturday (local time) the evacuation would proceed all through the night into Sunday.
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