Rescue helicopters airlifted 479 people from a disabled cruise ship off Norway’s western coast before it regained engine power Sunday and was escorted by three vessels to the nearby port of Molde.
Twenty people were injured in the ordeal as the Viking Sky ship tossed in winds gusting to 38 knots and rough seas with eight-meter waves. When the cruise ship regained power, 436 guests and 458 crew members remained on board.
The Norwegian Red Cross said those injured sustained broken bones and cuts.
The Viking Sky crew issued a mayday call Saturday as the engines failed with the ship within 100 meters of striking underwater rocks and 900 meters offshore.
Passengers reported horrifying scenes on the swaying ship.
One American passenger, Rodney Horgen, 62, of Minnesota, said he knew something was very wrong when the guests were all brought to the ship’s muster point. The Associated Press reported that Horgen was certain the end was nigh when a huge wave crashed through glass doors and swept his wife, Judie Lemieux, 10 meters across the floor.
“When the windows and door flew open and the two meters of water swept people and tables 20 to 30 feet, that was the breaker. I said to myself, `This is it,” Horgen recalled. “I grabbed my wife but I could not hold on. And she was thrown across the room. And then she got thrown back again by the wave coming back.”
“I was afraid,” Janet Jacob, one of the first passengers to be air-lifted, told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK. “I have never experienced anything so scary.”
“The evacuation is proceeding with all necessary caution,” operator Viking Ocean Cruises said on its website before the ship regained power.
Most of the passengers on the ship were from the United States, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.