epaselect NORWAY SHIP ADRIFT
Accompanied by tug boats, the Viking Sky cruise ship has limped into the Norwegian port of Molde more than a day after issuing a mayday call that led to harrowing helicopter rescues of half of its passengers.
The Viking Sky was carrying 1373 passengers and crew when it had engine trouble during a storm off the western coast of Norway on Saturday afternoon.
Afraid of dashing up on the rocks, the crew anchored amid heavy seas and high winds and an operation began to evacuate everyone on board.
Amid wind gusts up to 70km/h and waves higher than eight metres, five helicopters flying in the pitch dark evacuated passengers from the heaving ship throughout the night into Sunday morning.
More than 475 passengers were airlifted one by one off the ship.
As weather eased, a decision was made to halt the rescues and head to Molde, which it reached on Sunday afternoon local time.
Viking Cruises said 20 people suffered injuries, with those hurt receiving treatment in Norway.
"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, 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.