1,300 evacuating crippled cruise ship in bad weather

Posted at 6:03 PM, Mar 23, 2019

Rescuers are scrambling to rescue about 1,300 passengers and crew from a cruise ship off Norway that suffered an engine failure, emergency officials said Saturday.

The Viking Sky ship sent a distress signal Saturday due to "engine problems in bad weather," said Borghild Eldoen, a spokeswoman for the Joint Rescue Centre for Southern Norway.

The vessel is in rough seas in the Hustadvika area on the western coast of Norway and rescuers are facing waves of about 6-8 meters (roughly 19-26 feet) high, she said.

Helicopters airlifted passengers and crew members one by one Saturday and the process could continue overnight and through Sunday.

"We can't say how long it would take," Eldoen said.

Passenger Alexus Sheppard from northern California said she has been waiting almost six hours to be evacuated. Most people were fairly calm, she said, and they were being served food and water.

"It's still rocking and rolling here," Sheppard said.

As of Saturday night, about 115 passengers had been rescued and at least eight people had "minor injuries," Eldoen said.

It's unclear whether any passengers still on the ship have been hurt.

Because only one of the ship's engines is running, rescuers are trying to get the rest of the engines "working again so the ship can go by its own machine to a safe harbor" to bring all the passengers to shore.

Rescuers are trying to ensure the ship remains secure and doesn't drift, officials said.

Authorities initially sent five helicopters and a number of vessels to evacuate the passengers. They were forced to divert some resources when a nearby freight vessel lost engine power, putting that ship's crew in danger, rescue center officials said.

The evacuation of the cruise ship was delayed, officials said, and those still on board were considered safe.

The Viking Sky ship, owned by Viking Ocean Cruises, was built in 2017 and can hold 930 guests, according to the company's website.

The vessel was on its way to Stavanger from Tromso, according to the website Marine Traffic.