Sunday 21 April 2019

Viking chairman apologises to guests on ship stranded off Norway coast

The cruise company said the majority of passengers have disembarked and are on their way home.

By Press Association reporters

A cruise ship boss has apologised to guests on the Viking Sky liner, which was stranded off the coast of Norway after getting into difficulties in stormy seas.

A total of 215 people from the UK were on board the ship which sent a mayday call on Saturday after losing engine power, prompting the start of an operation to airlift 1,300 passengers and crew from the vessel in high winds.

As would-be holidaymakers begin returning home, footage released by Norwegian rescue services captured the moment passengers from the ship were hauled to safety.

The operator’s chairman, Torstein Hagen, said: “The past few days have been stressful and hectic for both guests and crew alike. I would like to personally apologise for what our guests experienced.”

The shipping tycoon, who is one of Norway’s richest men, added: “I would also like to say how impressed and grateful I am for the efforts of the national rescue services, rescue personnel, local authorities and the people along the Moere coast, and thank them for the concern and generosity they have shown our guests.

“I would also like to express my thanks to the crew on board the Viking Sky for their efforts and dedication.”

Police in Moere og Romsdal said the ship’s crew had managed to anchor in Hustadvika Bay on Saturday, amid fears the vessel would run aground.

Some 479 passengers were airlifted from the vessel.

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

A spokeswoman for Viking Cruises said the ship had docked in the port in the city of Molde, on Norway’s west coast, at 4.30pm local time on Sunday, having travelled there under its own power.

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

The company said on Monday afternoon that the “majority” of guests have disembarked or are in the process of leaving the vessel and are travelling home.

“We will continue to follow up with them to ensure their needs are covered.

“We have already begun our own internal investigation and our goal is to establish a complete and thorough understanding of what happened, and we welcome the investigations that have been launched, and will fully support them,” a company statement said.

A video, released by the Southern Norway Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRCC), shows a rescuer rappelling on to the deck of the stranded cruise ship from a helicopter before helping passengers.

Set against a picturesque backdrop of the Norwegian fjords, crew members aboard the ship can be seen catching the rescuer’s rope to help with the descent as strong gusts threaten to put the rescue in danger.

After landing safely aboard in the violent winds, the rescuer secures a middle-aged man in a life jacket to the rope before he is then whisked into the air and hauled into the hovering aircraft.

A second individual is also pictured being lifted to safety.

Footage online appeared to show the ship rocking dramatically, with debris falling from the ceiling and furniture including chairs sliding across the floor as passengers sat waiting to be rescued.

Derek and Esther Browne, from Hampshire, said the “whole boat was swaying, it was very rough” before they were airlifted to safety.

Mr Browne told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Stephen Nolan: “We had a few people on stretchers, several with cuts, two with broken limbs, but fortunately we were all right. We were airlifted on to the helicopter which was quite a frightening experience.”

He added: “I’d never been in a helicopter before, there were a lot of high winds, hovering overhead and the winchman came down and we were then collected up and so I shut my eyes as we arrived into the helicopter and there were 15 of us for about a 20-minute ride.”

The ship was due to arrive in Tilbury in Essex on Tuesday.

Viking Cruises advised anyone with concerns about guests who were on board to visit  www.vikingcruises.com/oceans/my-trip/current-sailings/index.html.

The 745ft Viking Sky was built in 2017 and is described on the official website as a “comfortable, award-winning ship, intimate and thoughtfully created by experienced nautical architects and designers to enrich your interaction with your destination in every way”.

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

Press Association

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