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Tuesday 23 April 2019

Cruise ship arrives safely to port after evacuation off Norway's coast

Viking Sky cruise ship arrives, after problems the ship got in the storm outside of Hustadvika, at Molde, Norway
Viking Sky cruise ship arrives, after problems the ship got in the storm outside of Hustadvika, at Molde, Norway
The cruise ship Viking Sky arrives at port off Molde, Norway, Sunday March 24, 2019, after the problems in heavy seas off Norway's western coast

A cruise ship which got into difficulties off the coast of Norway amid stormy seas has safely reached a port after around half of its passengers were evacuated.

Some 200 Britons were on board the Viking Sky ship which sent a mayday call after losing engine power, prompting the start of an operation to airlift 1,300 passengers and crew from the vessel in high winds.

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.

All passengers and crew are safe, she added, and passengers were due to begin flying home later on Sunday.

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

A statement from the operator thanked the local emergency services "for their support and skill displayed in managing the situation in very challenging weather conditions".

It added: "We would also like to thank the local residents who throughout the whole process have been extremely supportive and hospitable."

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".

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

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 alright. We were airlifted onto 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."

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

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

Viking Cruises advised anyone with concerns about guests who were onboard 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".

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