Norwegian cruise ship heads to port

About 1300 passengers and crew were aboard the Viking Sky when it ran into trouble off Norway.
About 1300 passengers and crew were aboard the Viking Sky when it ran into trouble off Norway.

A cruise ship that got into difficulties in stormy seas off the coast of Norway is sailing to port after around half of its passengers were evacuated.

Some 200 Britons and a large number of US citizens were on board the Viking Sky ship, which sent a mayday call after losing engine power.

The call prompted the start of an operation to airlift 1300 passengers and crew from the vessel in high winds.

Police in the Norwegian county of Moere og Romsdal said the ship's crew had managed to anchor in Hustadvika Bay, amid fears the vessel would run aground.

A spokeswoman for Viking Cruises said the ship was safely travelling to the city of Molde, on Norway's west coast, on Sunday under its own power.

There were still 436 guests and 458 crew members on board following the end of the evacuation, the operator said.

Some 479 passengers who were airlifted from the vessel are back on shore with the first due to fly home on Sunday.

Viking Cruises said 20 people suffered injuries, receiving treatment in Norway, with some already discharged.

"Throughout all of this, our first priority was for the safety and wellbeing of our passengers and our crew," Viking Cruises said in a statement.

The operator's chairman Torstein Hagen told Norway's VG newspaper the events were "some of the worst I have been involved in, but now it looks like it's going well in the end and that we've been lucky".

"I am very proud of our crew," added the shipping tycoon, who is one of Norway's richest men.

Footage online showed the ship rocking dramatically in waves of up to eight metres, debris falling from the ceiling, and furniture including chairs sliding across the floor as passengers sat waiting to be rescued.

Britons Derek and Esther Browne said the "whole boat was swaying" and it was "very rough".

"We had a few people on stretchers, several with cuts, two with broken limbs, but fortunately we were alright," Derek Browne told BBC Radio.

"We were airlifted onto the helicopter which was quite a frightening experience."

Norwegian media said the majority of the cruise ship passengers were British and American tourists.

The 227m ship was due to arrive in Essex in the UK on Tuesday.

Australian Associated Press