The Viking Sky cruise ship reached port on Sunday after a harrowing series of helicopter airlifts that rescued half its passengers from the vessel, after it became disabled in rough waters off the western coast of Norway.
Rescue officials said 479 passengers had been rescued from the ship by Sunday, thanks to an airlift that began the previous day after the vessel — carrying 1,373 passengers and crew— sent a mayday call and reported engine trouble.
The airlift was then halted as two tugboats started steering the vessel toward the nearest port. While the towing was underway, 436 passengers and 458 crew members remained on board.
Seventeen people were sent to hospital with injuries, said rescue official Jan Arve Dyrnes.
Watch: Scenes from inside the Viking Sky cruise ship
Rescue workers had been hoisting passengers one-by-one to safety as heaving waves tossed the ship from side to side and high winds battered the operation.
The Viking Sky issued the mayday call as bad weather hit and it started drifting toward the rocky shore.
Coast guard official Emil Heggelund told the newspaper VG it’s believed the ship was only 100 metres from striking rocks under the water and 900 metres from shore when it stopped and managed to moor.
Rescue teams with helicopters were sent to evacuate the ship under extremely difficult circumstances, including gusts up to 38 knots (70 km/h) and waves over eight metres.
The majority of the cruise ship passengers were reportedly British and American tourists.
The Viking Sky was on a 12-day trip that began March 14 in the western Norwegian city of Bergen, according to the cruisemapper.com website.
The ship was visiting the Norwegian towns and cities of Narvik, Alta, Tromso, Bodo and Stavanger before its scheduled arrival Tuesday in the British port of Tilbury on the River Thames.
The Viking Sky, a vessel with gross tonnage of 47,800, was delivered in 2017 to operator Viking Ocean Cruises.
Meanwhile, a freighter has experienced an engine seizure in the same stormy Hustadsvika Bay region off western Norway where the cruise ship became disabled.
Authorities say they have had to divert two of the five helicopters rescuing the Viking Sky passengers and crew to help the Hagland Captain cargo vessel’s crew of nine.
100 meters from a major disaster. <br>After a total blackout, <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/VikingSky?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#VikingSky</a> was drifting in a storm for 30 minutes before the anchors finally set 100 meters from shore, and then the crew managed to start one of the engines. <a href=”https://twitter.com/lookner?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@lookner</a> <a href=”https://t.co/Drn3XAAC5c”>pic.twitter.com/Drn3XAAC5c</a>
This story originally appeared on CBC