OSLO • Rescue services had airlifted 479 people to safety from a luxury cruise liner with engine trouble off the coast of Norway by yesterday morning and began towing the vessel to a nearby port.
The Viking Sky, with 1,373 passengers and crew on board, sent out a mayday signal on Saturday as it drifted towards land in the Norwegian Sea.
The airlift of passengers, many of them elderly, from the Viking Cruises ship by helicopter was halted yesterday morning as two tugboats started steering the vessel towards the nearest port.
Founder and chairman of Viking Cruises, Norwegian billionaire Torstein Hagen, said he hoped the vessel would arrive at the port of Molde on Norway's west coast by yesterday afternoon.
The helicopters are on standby in case the captain decides to restart the airlift, the rescue service said.
The 915 passengers were mainly from the United States and Britain. There were also Canadians and Australians on board, among others, the cruise company said.
Some 20 injured passengers had been taken to hospital, Viking Cruises said, while others had minor injuries.
The ship has been able to restart three of its four engines by yesterday morning but still needed assistance.
The tugboats, one in front and the other behind, were towing the ship at 13kmh. The vessel is about 80km from Molde, Norway's maritime rescue service said.
Stormy weather conditions had improved by early yesterday, the Norwegian Meteorological Institute said.
The wind was expected yesterday to drop further.
Images and a video posted by passengers on social media showed furniture sliding around and panels falling from the ceiling as the vessel drifted in waves of up to 8m.
Passengers earlier described the ordeal.
"We were having lunch when it began to shake. Window panes were broken and water came in. It was just chaos. The trip on the helicopter, I would rather forget. It was not fun," American passenger John Curry told public broadcaster NRK on Saturday.
The stretch of water known as Hustadvika and the surrounding areas are known for fierce weather and shallow waters dotted with reefs.
Built in 2017, the Viking Sky is 227m long and 29m wide, according to the company's website.