Home News Cruise Ship Stranded Off Norway Reaches Shore After Harrowing Rescue Effort – The New York Times

Cruise Ship Stranded Off Norway Reaches Shore After Harrowing Rescue Effort – The New York Times

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Cruise Ship Stranded Off Norway Reaches Shore After Harrowing Rescue Effort

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Passengers on the Viking Sky waited to be evacuated on Saturday.CreditCreditMichal Stewart, via Associated Press
  • March 24, 2019

LONDON — A cruise ship that set out with more than 1,300 people aboard finally reached the Norwegian shore on Sunday after having been stranded at sea for nearly 24 hours with engine trouble.

More than 890 people — 436 passengers and 458 crew members — were left on the 47,800-ton ship, the Viking Sky, as it struggled back to Molde, a coastal town in western Norway, after some of the engines were restarted. On Sunday at about 4:30 p.m. local time, after some six hours of traveling at sea with one tugboat in front and another in the rear, the vessel docked.

In footage shared on Twitter, cheers and whoops could be heard from onshore.

“It has reached Molde; everything has gone according to plan,” Einar Knudsen, a spokesman for the Joint Rescue Coordination Center for Southern Norway, which led the rescue operation, said by phone on Sunday.

Before the ship managed to limp back to port, rescuers had undertaken a harrowing operation in rough weather to evacuate hundreds of people by helicopter.

Some of the airlifted passengers arrived onshore bruised and battered, the Red Cross said. Passengers told NBC News that many had been hurt by falling objects and shattered glass as waves rocked the ship.

“Nothing similar has happened before, not in this magnitude,” Mr. Knudsen said.

The passengers, many of them older adults, came from countries including Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

The ship, which left Bergen, Norway, on March 14, had been scheduled to arrive in Tilbury, on the River Thames in southeastern England, on Tuesday. But when the vessel was traveling between two Norwegian ports, Tromso and Stavanger, it sent a mayday alert on Saturday afternoon that several engines had failed.

It was not immediately clear what had caused the ship to lose power. But it did so along a particularly dangerous part of the Norwegian coastline called Hustadvika, according to Eirik Walle, a coordinator for the southern rescue center.

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Five helicopters and several other vessels were involved in the rescue effort. (According to local reports, two helicopters also helped a cargo ship on Saturday, the Hagland Captain, which was in Norwegian waters when it sent an SOS message saying it, too, had “engine problems.” The crew members were evacuated.)

Rough weather — high winds and 26-foot waves — hampered the effort to evacuate the passengers of the Viking Sky, which began around 2 p.m. local time on Saturday.

“Currently, we understand 20 people suffered injuries as a result of this incident,” a spokesman for Viking Cruises, which operates the ship, said by email. He added that they were all receiving medical care in Norway and that some had already been discharged.

The Red Cross said in a statement on Sunday that several of the rescued passengers had suffered cuts or broken bones. “Many are also traumatized by what they have experienced, and need to be taken care of when they land,” the organization said.

Video footage shared by the cruise ship passengers on social media showed a terrifying ordeal as the ship swayed, with people, plants and furniture sent sliding across the floor. Other footage depicted hundreds strapped in fluorescent life jackets as water rushed past their feet inside the ship.

“The ship is rocking and rolling but at anchor,” Alexus Sheppard, a passenger, told The New York Times on Saturday. “Everyone is calm, except when we get rolled by a big wave,” she said.

Others commended the ship’s crew members, who gave water to the passengers and made them sandwiches.

One couple, Allen and Susan Dollberg of Novato, Calif., spoke on Sunday to NRK, the Norwegian government-owned broadcaster, about their experience.

“At first we took it lightly,” Mr. Dollberg said. “We thought we would be able to to make it through that water.” But he added, “Then suddenly the alarms went off that we needed to evacuate ship.”

Ms. Dollberg said, “We looked at each other and said, ‘This is really happening.’ ”

“Everything was breaking, furniture, glassware,” she said. “The closet doors were banging back and forth.” She added, “When we got the signal to evacuate, there was no time to think about getting important things like passports.”

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The Norwegian cargo vessel the Hagland Captain on Sunday. It, too, had engine trouble off the west coast of Norway the day before, and its crew was rescued by helicopter, according to local reports.CreditSvein Ove Ekornesvag/EPA, via Shutterstock

The couple said they still had friends aboard the ship, saying it had been “a rough night for them.” But Ms. Dollberg praised the rescue operation: “The crew, the Norwegian people and the rescue operation have been stellar.”

On Sunday, the operation seemed under control despite the challenging weather, including strong currents, heavy winds, and high waves.

Mr. Knudsen said earlier in the day that the ship had been turned from a westward to an eastward position with the help of two tugs and that three of its four engines had been restarted.

The cause of the ship’s engine failure was unknown, Torstein Hagen, the Norwegian founder and chairman of Viking Cruises, which has its headquarters in Switzerland, told local news outlets on Sunday.

He said that the passengers would be compensated. “They will get their money back,” he said, adding, “They will also have a letter from me, and be invited back again.”

Mr. Hagen told the newspaper VG Sunday: “What happened today is among the worst I have ever experienced. But as it seems that all will end well, I’ve got to say we have been lucky.”

In a statement on Sunday, Viking Cruises said, “The 479 passengers who were airlifted from the vessel are currently on shore and arrangements have been made to fly them home, with the first passengers leaving today.”

It also said that the company’s next sailing, which had been scheduled to embark on March 27, had been canceled. “Guests and their travel agents have been contacted directly. We do not anticipate any additional cancellations at this time,” the statement said.

The Viking Sky will remain at the port in Molde for a public investigation into what happened, Mr. Knudsen, the spokesman for the rescue operation, said.

The cruise ship industry has suffered a number of disasters in the past decade, including the sinking of the Costa Concordia in 2012 and the deadly fire of the Norman Atlantic in 2014, as well as setbacks such as outbreaks of illness and onboard drug raids.

Follow Iliana Magra on Twitter: @Magraki.

Henrik Pryser Libell contributed reporting from Oslo.

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