1300 evacuations under way from Norway cruise ship

1300 evacuations under way from Norway cruise ship

Police chief Tor Andre Franck said: "It is unsafe to encounter engine problems in these waters which hide numerous reefs. therefore we would prefer to have the passengers on land rather than on board the ship".

A cruise ship with engine problems sent a mayday call off Norway's western coast on Saturday, then began evacuating its 1300 passengers and crew amid stormy seas and high winds in a high-risk helicopter rescue operation.

The ship's 1,300 passengers and crew are being evacuated via several helicopters and ships.

Only 87 people had been evacuated by 1750 GMT, and the airlift was set to continue throughout the night, rescue service spokeswoman Borghild Eldoen said.

Norway's sea rescue agency said the MV Viking Sky sent out a distress signal amid high waves and strong winds.

Unfortunately for the roughly 1,300 passengers and crew stuck aboard the vessel, the evacuation is expected to be a slow and harrowing process, as each passenger needs to be hoisted from the ship aboard one of five rescue helicopters.

Viking Sky
Helicopters are being used to evacuate passengers

The area where the ship is stranded, known as Hustadvika, is notoriously hard to navigate.

Passengers rescued from the Viking Sky cruise ship are helped from a helicopter in Hustadvika, Norway, on March 23, 2019.

Police chief Tor Andrew Franck however said that unfavourable weather conditions meant that "we would prefer to have the passengers at land rather than on board ship".

Responders had reportedly removed 100 people from the Viking Sky by the evening, local time.

"Hustadvika is one of the most notorious maritime areas that we have", Odd Roar Lange, a journalist specialising in tourism, told public broadcaster NRK. Passengers were suited up in orange life vests but the waves broke some windows and water flowed over the feet of some passengers. It has a capacity of 930 according to the company website. The cruise ship is moored between the western Norwegian cities of Alesund and Trondheim.

The Viking Sky, a vessel with gross tonnage of 47,800, was delivered in 2017 to operator Viking Ocean Cruises.

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