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24.03.2019 Europe

Passengers airlited to safety from stricken Norwegian cruise ship

By RFI
AFP/Svein Ove Ekornesvaag
MAR 24, 2019 EUROPE

Seventeen people were taken to hospital after nearly 500 passengers were airlifted from a cruise liner that ran into trouble off the coast of Norway on Saturday. The Viking Sky was sailing from Tromso to Stavanger when it lost power and started drifting in rough seas two kilometres off More og Romsdal.

Following a distress call from the captain, authorities launched an airlift.

"We would rather have the passengers on land rather than on board the ship," police chief Tor Andre Franck said.

On Sunday, the crew restarted three of the ship's four engines and it was being aided by two tugs as it and the remaining 800 passengers headed for the port of Molde.

"It is dangerous to encounter engine problems in these waters, which hide numerous reefs," said Franck.

Recovery
A reception centre was set up in a gym on shore to care for the evacuees. "For the moment everything appears to be going well," said a rescue centre spokesman, Einar Knutsen.

Video footage of the passengers' ordeal showed furniture and plants sliding round the vessel as parts of the ceiling came down. Dozens of passengers wearing life jackets were filmed seated and waiting to get off the ship.

"I have never seen anything so frightening," said Janet Jacob, who was rescued. "I started to pray. I prayed for the safety of everyone on board," she told the NRK television channel.

"The helicopter trip was terrifying. The winds were like a tornado," she added.

Passenger Rodney Horgen said he had been reminded of the Titanic. "The best word, I guess, is surreal," he said.

"Sea water just came rushing in, hit the tables and chairs. There was broken glass and 20-30 people just ... went past right in front of me.

"I was standing, my wife was sitting in front of me and all of a sudden, she was gone. I thought this was the end."

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