BBC NEWS March 24 2019
Rescuers have airlifted hundreds of people stranded on a cruise ship off the west coast of Norway.
The Viking Sky lost power on Saturday and sent out a distress signal after it began drifting towards land.
It got into trouble in a notoriously difficult stretch of waters and was reportedly minutes from striking rocks.
The vessel has since restarted three of its four engines and is moving towards the nearest port with the assistance of tugboats.
So far, almost 500 of the 1,373 passengers have been airlifted off the ship. Most of those on board are said to be British or US citizens.
“During the night, the sea was very rough. The boat rolled and rolled. And then we went to breakfast. And then we were going for the afternoon film show, and then the lights suddenly went out,” said Derek Browne, from southern England, who was on board with his wife Esther.
“We were airlifted on the helicopter, which was quite a frightening experience.”
Another rescued passenger, Janet Jacob, told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK she had “never seen anything so frightening”.
“I started to pray. I prayed for the safety of everyone on board,” she said. “The helicopter trip was terrifying.”
The Viking Sky suffered engine failure on Saturday afternoon while en route to Stavanger from Tromso.
Five helicopters and several rescue ships were called in for the rescue.
One of the rescue ships also lost engine power and a local paper said the “brutal” conditions meant lifeboats were forced to turn back.
Fisherman Jan Erik Fiskerstrand, whose boat was one of the first to come to help Viking Sky, told Aftenposten newspaper, “it was just minutes before this could have gone really wrong”.
The ship could have hit the rocks “if they had not started the engine and fastened the anchor”.
Olav Magne Stromsholm, who captains tourist vessels in the area, told the VG newspaper the Viking Sky had been “near disaster”, calling the waters there a “shipyard cemetery”.
Those brought ashore are being taken to a local sports complex and accommodation had been found for them in local hotels.
Seventeen people have been taken to hospital.
The Viking Sky is a Viking Ocean Cruises ship, which had its maiden voyage in 2017.