The luxury cruise ship Viking Sky has docked safely in Norway following the terrifying sea-rescue of its cabin and crew, after the failure of its engines in rough seas.
Operated by Viking Ocean Cruises, Viking Sky’s ordeal began on Saturday, Reuters report, when the ship sent out a mayday call as it drifted towards land in the Norweigan Sea, coming to within 100 metres from the coast.
The ship was carrying 1,373 passengers and crew – many of whom, NPR report, were senior citizens – from Norway’s arctic north to Stavanger, when the ship encountered engine problems, prompting the crew’s call for help.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Rodney Horgen, 62, recalled the terrifying moment a huge wave crashed through the Viking Sky cruise ship’s glass doors and swept his wife across the floor.
“When the windows and door flew open and the 2 meters (6 feet) of water swept people and tables 20 to 30 feet that was the breaker. I said to myself, ‘This is it,'” Horgen said. “I grabbed my wife but I couldn’t hold on. And she was thrown across the room. And then she got thrown back again by the wave coming back.”
Horgen was among those winched from the ship by helicopter, one-by-one in the middle of the night as rescue services worked to evacuate everyone onboard, while the winds roared around them and the waves beat at the ship.
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An experienced fisherman, Horgen said he had never experienced such rough conditions:
“I did not have a lot of hope. I knew how cold that water was and where we were and the waves and everything. You would not last very long,” he said. “That was very, very frightening.”
Video posted on social media shows rescue services underway contending with rough conditions, while the ship continues to be battered by the Norwegian waves, within eye-shot from the coast.
Rescue services evacuated a total of 479 people, Reuters report, and by the time the ship arrived in the port of Molde on Norway’s west coast, about 900 people were still on board.
Officials for Viking Ocean Cruises told the Associated Press that 20 people suffered injuries.
“It was very nearly a disaster. The ship drifted to within 100 meters of running aground before they were able to restart one of the engines,” police chief Hans Vik, who heads the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre for southern Norway, told TV2.
“If they had run aground we would have faced a major disaster.”
— Sigurd Mjelve (@Sigmje) March 24, 2019
Founder and chairman of Viking Cruises, Norwegian billionaire Torstein Hagen, met some of those who had been airlifted, Reuters report.
“They’ve had a bit of a shocking experience,” Hagen told TV2 and other media after meeting passengers who had been winched from the deck in the storm.
“Most of our passengers are senior citizens…imagine what it’s like to hang there on that wire. It must be a terrible experience but they seem to have handled it very well,” Hagen said.
Viking Ocean Cruises has released the following response:
“Throughout all of this, our first priority was for the safety and well-being of our passengers and our crew. We would like to thank the Norwegian Redningssentral and the Norwegian emergency services for their support and skill displayed in managing the situation in very challenging weather conditions.
“We would also like to thank the local residents who throughout the whole process have been extremely supportive and hospitable.
“If you have questions or concerns about any guests please call this number for U.S. and Australia booked guests 1-888-889-8837, and for UK booked guests 07585 779 853 or 0208 780 7900.”