By Justine Haarberg
Terrified passengers feared for their life as they sat in life jackets while their cruise ship dramatically rocked side to side. They watched helplessly as furniture slid across the ship. One crew member stated that “everything was broken: plates glasses, furniture” and that it was impossible to stand up on the ship. “It was a nightmare,” he said. “People were panicking, everybody was running, some people were crying. People are shocked, you can see it in their faces. They can’t believe they survived.” Although expecting to come back from their vacation relaxed and rejuvenated, passengers of the Viking Sky were happy to be alive at the end of their trip.
On Saturday, March 23rd, four helicopters came to the rescue to airlift more than 1,300 people off of a stranded Viking Cruises ship off the coast of Norway. The ship, called The Viking Sky, suffered an engine failure leaving the ship supported by one anchor and an one engine.
Although not too far off the shore, The Viking Sky was anchored in the middle of very high winds, making the rescue very difficult. The ship had departed on a 12-day cruise from Tromso to Stavanger (southern Norway) and was close to the rocky shore when it experienced engine failure. Throughout the years, many shipwrecks have occurred in this area, which put the Viking Sky in a bad position.
The helicopter rescue began mid-Saturday and continued until Sunday morning. The operation was dangerous, risky, and slow as the helicopters had to rescue people one by one in the stormy weather. Of the 1,300 people on board, 479 passengers were successfully taken off the ship by helicopter. The remaining 894 people, consisting of 436 passengers and 458 crew members, stayed on the ship as it headed to Molde, a town on the coast of western Norway. After slowly making their way to Molde with one tugboat in front and one in back, the ship finally docked. As of Monday morning, hospital officials reported that one passenger is in critical condition and eight others are in the hospital. After a terrifying experience of being rescued by helicopter in the dark in the middle of the stormy seas, people were very relieved to safely make it to shore. In many released videos, screams of happiness and relief can be heard as The Viking Sky docked in Molde. The cruise ship will remain docked in Molde for a while as investigators look into the cause of the engine failure.