Before You Embark on “The Viking Sky” First See the Cruise from Hell

The Viking Sky cruise ship sent an SOS due to “engine problems in bad weather”, while police reported 1300 passengers would be evacuated by helicopter. Picture: AFPSource:AP

Norway airlifts more than one thousand passengers off SOS cruise ship

AP, Staff writers, News Corp Australia Network

Rescue workers off Norway’s western coast are evacuating 1300 passengers and crew from a disabled cruise ship by helicopter, winching them one-by-one to safety as heaving waves tossed the ship from side to side and high winds battered the operation.

The Viking Sky issued a mayday call as bad weather caused its engines to fail and forced the ship toward the rocky shore, the Norwegian newspaper VG reported.

Dragging its anchor, it reportedly came within 100m of grounding before it managed to restart one of its engines.

This photo provided by Alexus Sheppard shows passengers on board the Viking Sky, waiting to be evacuated, off the coast of Norway. Picture: Alexus Sheppard via AP

The ship was travelling south en route from Tromso to Stavanger when it got into trouble in an area that has claimed many vessels.

“It is dangerous to encounter engine problems in these waters, which hide numerous reefs,” said Tor Andre Franck, the head of the police operations

Police in the western county of Moere og Romsdal said the crew, fearing the ship would run aground, managed to anchor in Hustadvika Bay, between the Norwegian cities of Alesund and Trondheim, so the evacuations could take place. Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances, including gusts up to 38 knots and waves over eight metres. The area is known for its rough, frigid waters.

The Viking Sky cruise ship sent an SOS due to “engine problems in bad weather”, while police reported 1300 passengers would be evacuated by helicopter. Picture: AFP

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.

I have never seen anything so frightening,” said one of the passengers who was rescued, Janet Jacob. “I started to pray. I prayed for the safety of everyone on board,” she told the NRK television channel. The helicopter trip was terrifying. The winds were like a tornado.”

Five helicopters were scrambled along with coastguard and other rescue vessels. Police said 338 of the 1373 people on board had so far been taken off by helicopter, with each chopper able to take 15-20 people per trip.


The immediate crisis is now over, with reports the ship had managed to restart one of its engines when just 100 meters offshore.

“It was just a matter of minutes before this could have gone really wrong,” a fisherman involved in the rescue effort told local media. “If they had not started the engine and had the anchor fastening, the cruise ship would have ended up on the rocks.”

When powerless, the ship was wallowing side-on to the waves, rolling heavily from side to side. With power, the ship is able to remain much more stable meeting the incoming waves bow-on.

The arrival of two powerful tugboats helped to keep the cruise ship’s bow pointed into the waves and move it further from the shore.

But the crew has managed to restart three of the Viking Sky’s four engines. The vessel was making slow headway at two to three knots off the dangerous, rocky coast and a tug would help it towards the port of Molde, about 500 kilometres northwest of Oslo, officials said.

In this image taken from video made available by CHC helicopters, helicopters fly over the cruise ship Viking Sky after it sent out a Mayday signal. Picture: CHC helicopters via AP

The cruise ship Viking Sky after it sent out a Mayday signal because of engine failure in windy conditions off the west coast of Norway. Picture: Odd Roar Lange/NTB scanpix/AP

The majority of the cruise ship passengers were reportedly British and American tourists. About 180 had been evacuated, according to rescue officials. Per Fjeld of the Joint Rescue Center Southern Norway said there was is no danger to the remaining passengers and the airlift can accommodate all of them. He said the rescue will speed up when there is better light and the weather improves.

But the need for helicopter rescue is being re-assessed now the ship has regained power.

“We would rather have the passengers on land rather than on board the ship,” police chief Tor Andre Franck said.

The airlift was continuing early, emergency services spokesman Per Fjeld said.

Passengers prepare for evacuation as heaving waves tossed the ship from side to side. Picture: Michal Stewart via AP

Video and photos from people on the ship showed it heaving, with chairs and other furniture dangerously rolling from side to side. 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.

American passenger John Curry told NRK that he was having lunch as the cruise ship started to shake.

Authorities told NRK that a strong storm with high waves had been preventing rescue workers from using life boats or tug boats to take passengers ashore.

“It was just chaos. The helicopter ride from the ship to shore I would rather not think about. It wasn’t nice,” Curry 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.

Later, reports emerged that a cargo ship with nine crew members was in trouble nearby, and the local Norwegian rescue service diverted two of the five helicopters working on the cruise ship to that rescue.

Stranded passenger that were rescued by helicopter from the cruise ship Viking Sky are pictured on March 23, 2019 on the west coast of Norway near Romsdal. Picture: AFP

Emergency services take rescued passengers from a helipad. Picture: Odd Roar Lange/NTB Scanpix via AP

A reception centre has been set up in a gym on shore to accommodate the evacuees, many of whom are from the US and Britain. Police said 17 people had been taken to hospital.

“For the moment everything appears to be going well,” said a rescue centre spokesman, Einar Knutsen.

The area where the ship got into problems, known as Hustadvika, is notoriously difficult to navigate.

Operated by the Norwegian firm Viking Ocean Cruisers, the Viking Sky is a modern cruise ship launched in 2017 with a capacity of 930 passengers plus crew.

In addition to US and British nationals, there were also passengers from 14 other countries on board.


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Author: The Millennium Report