Passengers rescued from Norwegian cruise ship in storm

The Viking Sky vessel drifted towards land after it had sent a mayday signal, with passengers airlifted by helicopter to safety

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More than 1,300 passengers and crew were rescued from a luxury cruise ship off the west coast of Norway on Saturday after the vessel suffered engine failure in stormy weather.

The Viking Sky was travelling from Tromso to Stavanger, carrying 915 guests and 458 crew, when it experienced a loss of engine power near Molde. After sending a mayday signal, the ship drifted towards the coast.

The crew were able to restart an engine and the ship safely anchored about 2 kilometres from land.

Four helicopters safely rescued passengers one by one from the deck and airlifted them to a village near the town of Molde. The passengers have been given rooms in local hotels and Viking is arranging return flights for all guests.

A Viking spokesperson told The National: "Our first priority was for the safety and well-being of our passengers and our crew, and in close cooperation with the Norwegian Coast Guard, the captain decided to evacuate all guests from the vessel by helicopter."

Cruise passengers described the moment when the ship's engines stopped, and the evacuation that followed.

"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.

Media reports suggested eight passengers had been injured during the incident and a Viking spokesperson confirmed that "a small number of non-life threatening injuries have been reported".

A special hotline has been set up to answer any concerns people have about relatives who were travelling on the ship; this information can be found on Viking's website.

A second vessel, a freighter with a crew of nine, was also being evacuated nearby after suffering engine failure, diverting helicopters and thus delaying the cruise ship airlift, the rescue centre added.

The storm caused waves to reach six to eight metres in height, with wind blowing at 24 metres per second, according to the Norwegian Meteorological Institute.

A visitor at Hustadvika Gjestegard, a guesthouse on the Hustadvika shoreline, captured footage of the Viking Sky floating just of the coast where it had anchored.

Viking has dispatched an operational task force, including the company’s owner, to Molde where passengers are recovering.