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Thousands Evacuated Off Cruise Ship By Helicopter

Dramatic footage emerges after the ailing Viking Sky cruise ship ran into engine problems in heavy winds and seas off Norway's western coast.

A cruise ship with engine problems sent a mayday call off Norway's western coast on Saturday, then began evacuating its 1,300 passengers and crew amid stormy seas and high winds in a high-risk helicopter rescue operation.

The Norwegian newspaper VG said the Viking Sky cruise ship ran into propulsion problems as bad weather hit Norway's coastal regions on Saturday.

Norwegian media reported gusts up to 38 knots (43 mph) and waves over eight meters (26 feet) in an area known for its rough, frigid waters. Image: Alexus Sheppard | Odd Roar Lange | The Travel Inspector

Police in the western county of Møre og Romsdal said the ship managed to anchor in Hustadvika Bay, between the western Norwegian cities of Alesund and Trondheim, so the evacuations could take place.

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances.

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Norwegian authorities said they were forced to divert two of five helicopters rescuing the crew and passengers to help another ship that experienced a seizure in the storm. They were diverted to assist the nine-person crew of the Hagland Captain cargo vessel. Both boats are trying to avoid being dashed on the rocky coast.

Norwegian public broadcaster NRK said the Viking Sky's evacuation was likely to be a slow and dangerous process, as passengers needed to be hoisted from the cruise ship to the five available helicopters one by one. By 6 p.m. local time, some 100 people had been rescued.

Authorities told NRK that a strong storm with high waves were preventing rescue workers from using lifeboats or other vessels in taking passengers ashore.

Video shot by a passenger on the ship showed it heaving, with chairs and other furniture dangerously rolling from side-to-side. Image: Alexus Sheppard | Odd Roar Lange | The Travel Inspector

"It's a demanding exercise because they (passengers) have to hang in the air under a helicopter and there's a very, very strong wind," witness Odd Roar Lange told NRK at the site.

According to the cruisemapper.com website, the Viking Sky was on a 12-day trip that began March 14 in the western Norwegian city of Bergen. The ship was visiting the Norwegian towns and cities of Narvik, Alta, Tromso, Bodo and Stavanger before its scheduled arrival Tuesday in the British port of Tilbury on the River Thames.

The Viking Sky, a vessel with a gross tonnage of 47,800, was delivered in 2017 to operator Viking Ocean Cruises.