Passengers rescued after cruise ship becomes stranded off Norway's stormy coast

By Renee Duff, AccuWeather meteorologist
March 25, 2019, 1:41:22 PM EDT

The cruise ship that became stranded after experiencing engine problems amid strong winds and heavy seas off the coast of Norway on Saturday finally reached the port of Molde on Sunday afternoon.

A mayday call was sent out by the Viking Sky cruise ship after the vessel ran into propulsion issues off Norway's western coast on Saturday afternoon.

The ship managed to anchor in Hustadvika Bay, between the cities of Alesund and Trondheim, Norway, according to local authorities.

By Sunday morning, the vessel had successfully restarted three of its four engines and slowly started making its way to the port of Molde, according to AFP.

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats rushed to the scene to evacuate the estimated 1,300 passengers and crew aboard the ship after it became stranded.

Norwegian officials announced Monday that an investigation was underway into why the ship left port despite the forecast of stormy weather, according to CBS News.

"The high risk which the ship, its passengers and crew were exposed to made us decide to investigate the incident," said Dag S. Liseth, who is the head of the Norwegian Accident Investigations Board.

A majority of the passengers were British and American tourists.

Photographer Eva Frisnes captured dramatic photos of the scene from shore.

High winds and rough seas that tossed the ship back and forth made rescue operations extremely difficult and dangerous.

About 479 people had been evacuated by being hoisted one-by-one to safety, The Associated Press reported. Twenty people have been hospitalized.

Helicopter evacuations stopped as the ship was being towed to port.

“It was just chaos. The helicopter ride from the ship to shore I would rather not think about. It wasn’t nice,” American passenger John Curry told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK.

Less windy conditions are in store for Monday. With the lighter wind, seas will lessen through the day, though will remain at 7-10 feet (2-3 meters) by the afternoon.

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Videos posted by passengers showed chairs and other furniture items being tossed around from side to side on the vessel as it rocked in the heavy seas.

Large waves broke some windows and allowed frigid water to flow into the ship, according to the Associated Press.

cruise ship ap 2

This photo provided by Michal Stewart shows passengers on board the Viking Sky, waiting to be evacuated, off the coast of Norway on Saturday, March 23, 2019. (Michal Stewart via AP)

As rescuers were evacuating the cruise ship, a nearby cargo vessel with nine people on board also suffered engine failure in the stormy Hustadsvika Bay, local authorities reported.

Two of the five helicopters that were being used to rescue those stranded on the cruise ship were diverted to evacuate the cargo vessel.

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