Norway cruise ship arrives at port after passenger airlifts

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Media caption,

Footage from on board showed furniture crashing and sliding as the vessel tilted

A cruise ship that got into trouble off the Norwegian coast has arrived safely at the port of Molde after the dramatic rescue of hundreds of people.

The Viking Sky lost power on Saturday and sent out a distress signal after it began drifting towards land.

Almost 500 of the 1,373 people on board were airlifted off in bad weather. Three of the ship's four engines were later restarted for its trip to port.

Footage from inside the vessel showed it heaving violently in rough seas.

Evacuations were halted as the Viking Sky made its way to Molde on Sunday, accompanied by several tugboats.

Rescuers said they were ready to resume operations if the captain deemed it necessary.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
The Viking sky arriving at Molde port in Norway on Sunday afternoon
Image source, EPA
Image caption,
The vessel was able to dock safely, with ambulance staff on hand to help with any injuries

How did the drama unfold?

The Viking Sky suffered engine failure on Saturday afternoon while en route to Stavanger from Tromso in a notoriously treacherous stretch of waters.

Fisherman Jan Erik Fiskerstrand, whose boat was one of the first to come to help Viking Sky, told Aftenposten newspaper, "it was just minutes before this could have gone really wrong".

The ship could have hit the rocks "if they had not started the engine and fastened the anchor" he added.

Five helicopters and several rescue ships were called in but poor weather meant the lifeboats were forced to turn back.

The authorities decided to launch airlifts rather than leave people on board and hundreds were hoisted to safety.

Among those rescued, 20 people suffered injuries. Most of the passengers are said to be British or US citizens, many of them elderly.

What was it like on board?

Derek Browne, from southern England, who was travelling with his wife Esther told the BBC the ship had been "rolling and rolling" all night on Friday before losing engine power on Saturday.

He said being airlifted to safety was "quite a frightening experience".

George Davis, from Manchester, said he and his wife Barbara waited 10 hours to be rescued.

"It was a very scary event", he said, adding: "Locals tell us they were amazed that we sailed into the teeth of a storm they knew was coming".

Media caption,

British passenger Derek Browne: 'We were told Mayday Mayday!'

In footage from the ship, passengers wearing life jackets are seen waiting to be rescued.

The former South African cricketer Graeme Smith said his parents had been among those airlifted to safety.

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One of those still on board, Lara from Birmingham in the UK, said "the crew were magnificent and have kept the remaining passengers safe, warm and fed".

The Viking Sky is a Viking Ocean Cruises ship, which had its maiden voyage in 2017.

The company said "throughout all of this, our first priority was for the safety and wellbeing of our passengers and our crew".

Are engine failures common on cruise ships?

Trevor English, an engineer and technical author based in Texas who has written about the workings of cruise ships, told the BBC that thousands of cruises take place each year and this type of failure - or combination of failures - is rare.

"It's important we understand that the engineering of these ships are held to high standards," he says, adding that while vessels such as the Viking Sky have four engines, "it's possible for components to break that could cause the entire power system to fail".

He continues: "What makes this event unique is the storms. In many cases, if engines are lost, they can be restored quickly with no issue.

"While one engine on the Viking Sky was soon restored, the storms made the lack of propulsion especially dire," Mr English says.

He adds that cruises on large vessels are generally very safe, but: "Like everything we choose to do in life, it's an evaluation of risk."

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