Injured Norway cruise ship passengers airlifted in 'scary' ordeal

23 March 2019, 14:39 | Updated: 24 March 2019, 13:39

More than 1,000 passengers are being airlifted one-by-one to safety from a cruise ship after its engines failed in stormy conditions.

Police said 16 people have been taken to hospital after being airlifted from the Viking Sky, three of them with serious injuries.

The cruise ship was carrying about 1,300 passengers and crew, including 200 Britons, when it sent mayday signals off the west coast of Norway.

Those who have been rescued have spoken of their fear as they were taken on one of the five available helicopters getting them back to land.

Janet Jacob, one of the first passengers saved, told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK: "I was afraid. I've never experienced anything so scary."

She said the winds were "like a tornado" and said she was praying "for the safety of all aboard".

Video posted on social media showed furniture sliding around inside the ship and debris falling from the ceiling as it listed heavily to one side.

Those on board are being hoisted one-by-one from the deck and taken by rescue helicopter to a village just north of the town of Molde.

The boat will be towed there on Sunday morning.

An update in the early hours of Sunday morning (GMT) indicated about 230 people had been brought safely off the ship.

It is slow work, and continued through the night. Per Fjeld, of the joint rescue centre in Southern Norway, said the remaining passengers were not in any danger, and the rescues would speed up when there was better light and weather.

The waves were 6-8m (20-26ft) high, and the wind blew at 24m per second, the Norwegian Meteorological Institute said.

"It's a demanding exercise, because they (the passengers) have to hang in the air under a helicopter and there's a very, very strong wind," witness Odd Roar Lange told NRK.

The storm was expected to last until at least midnight local time (11pm UK time).

A freighter with a crew of nine was also being evacuated nearby after suffering engine failure too. Two of the five helicopters had to be diverted in order to rescue them before returning to the Viking Sky.

The Viking Sky is anchored about 1.5 miles from land after the crew managed to restart one engine.

"We were having lunch when it began to shake," American passenger John Curry told NRK.

"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."

A spokesman for Viking Cruises said: "The ship is proceeding on its own power and a tugboat is on site. The evacuation is proceeding with all necessary caution.

"A small number of non-life threatening injuries have been reported. Guests are being accommodated in local hotels when they arrive back on shore, and Viking will arrange for return flights for all guests."

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "We are in touch with Norwegian authorities and stand ready to help any British people who require our assistance."

The cruisemapper.com website said the Viking Sky was on a 12-day trip that began on 14 March in the western Norwegian city of Bergen.

Built in 2017, it belongs to Viking Ocean Cruises - part of the Viking Cruises group founded by Norwegian billionaire Torstein Hagen.

According to the company website its passenger capacity is 930.