Passengers heaved a sigh of relief on Sunday as a Norwegian cruise ship safely brought them to Molde harbour after narrowly escaping imminent grounding near a rocky stretch in Hustadvika bay and dramatically airlifting 440 of the 1,373 passengers aboard, news reports said citing local media.
Helicopter evacuation of passengers of the stranded Viking Sky was stopped around 10 am as winds eased and three of the ship’s four engines started working again, Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten said.
On Saturday afternoon, the ship was in grave danger as it was just 100 metres away from a rocky stretch in Hustadvika bay off Romsdal where several vessels had sunk earlier, newsinenglish.no reported.
The vessel sent a distress message to Romsdal police around 2 pm saying it was in serious trouble and drifting towards land amid a severe storm.
The ship’s power went off and it was about to dash against the rocks when the crew managed to restart a motor.
The ship continued to list violently as waves, whipped up by high winds, kept pounding the vessel.
A massive rescue operation was immediately launched. Several helicopters arrived and began airlifting 15 to 20 passengers on each trip to Hustad village.
Towering waves and strong winds prevented two rescue vessels RS Erik Bye and RS Maersk from approaching the stricken cruise ship.
A cargo ship Hagland Captain, which came to rescue the passengers, had engine problems and was stranded near the cruise ship.
Two helicopters were sent to the freighter to evacuate its nine crew members.
Some 17 of the 440 evacuated passengers of the cruise ship are being treated in hospitals in Molde and Kristiansund for injuries. Three of them suffered serious fractures when the vessel was tossed by waves.
The rest of the passengers have been put up in various hotels.
Torstein Hagen, founder and chairman of Viking Ocean Cruises which operates Viking Sky, flew to Molde late on Saturday to meet passengers most of whom are from the US and UK.