Mon, Mar 25, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Hundreds winched from stricken liner

RESCUE CONTINUING:The ship was carrying 915 passengers and 458 crew when it sent out a distress signal on Saturday. Evacuation was being done by five helicopters

Reuters, OSLO

A photograph provided by Michal Stewart shows passengers on board the Viking Sky, waiting to be evacuated on Saturday off the coast of Norway. AP / Michal Stewart

Rescue services had airlifted 397 people to safety from a luxury cruise liner with engine trouble off the coast of Norway by yesterday morning and were preparing to tow the vessel to a nearby port.

The Viking Sky, with 1,373 passengers and crew on board, on Saturday sent out a mayday signal as it drifted toward land in the Norwegian Sea.

The ship was carrying 915 passengers, of whom “a large number” were from the US and Britain, according to the rescue services.

About 17 injured passengers had been taken to hospital, a local rescue coordinator told a news conference early yesterday, while others suffered minor cuts and bruises.

One was taken to St Olav’s Hospital in the town of Trondheim, which is central Norway’s most advanced medical facility. Others were taken to local hospitals in the region.

“Many have also been traumatized by the experience and need care when they arrive on shore,” the Norwegian Red Cross said.

The passengers were being winched one-by-one to safety by five helicopters as heaving waves tossed the ship from side to side amid high winds, with gusts up to 38 knots (70kph) and waves of more than 8m.

The airlift went on through Saturday night. The ship was able to restart three of its four engines yesterday morning, but still needed assistance.

“The evacuation continues at the request of the vessel ... they need tugboats to get to port,” rescue service spokesman Per Fjeld said, adding that the plan was to bring the Viking Sky to the town of Molde.

Rescue services have begun to attach lines to the ship from tugboats to begin towing it toward the port.

Stormy weather conditions had improved in the early hours of yesterday, with winds blowing at 14 meters per second (mps), down from 24mps second previously, according to the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. The wind speeds are expected to fall further during the day.

Images and film posted by passengers on social media showed furniture sliding around as the vessel drifted, and passengers earlier described the ordeal.

“We were having lunch when it began to shake. Window panes were broken and water came in. It was just chaos. The trip on the helicopter, I would rather forget. It was not fun,” American passenger John Curry told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corp (NRK) on Saturday.

“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.”

Additional reporting by AP

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