A cruise ship off Norway’s western coast is evacuating 1,300 passengers and crew Saturday after engine problems forced the ship to send a mayday call.
Norwegian public broadcaster NRK said the Viking Sky’s evacuation was likely to be a slow and dangerous process, as passengers needed to be hoisted from the cruise ship to the five available helicopters one by one, according to The Associated Press. As of Sunday morning, 379 of the 1,373 passengers and crew had been airlifted to shore.
Authorities told NRK that a strong storm with high waves was preventing rescue workers from using life boats or other vessels in taking passengers ashore.
“It’s a demanding exercise, because they (passengers) have to hang in the air under a helicopter and there’s a very, very strong wind,” witness Odd Roar Lange told NRK at the site.
Norwegian media reported gusts up to 43 mph and waves over 26 feet. The area is known for its rough, frigid waters.
Passengers have taken to social media to share what they're witnessing onboard as they wait to be rescued.
Alexus Sheppard posted a video on Twitter of severe tilting due to the rough waters. "We're waiting for evacuation by helicopter," she wrote with the hashtags #VikingSky and #Mayday.
David Hernandez posted a video showing the ship has taken in some water with it running under passengers' feet.
The Norwegian newspaper VG said the Viking Sky cruise ship ran into propulsion problems as bad weather hit Norway’s coastal regions. Police in the western county of Moere og Romsdal said the ship managed to anchor in Hustadsvika Bay, between the western Norwegian cities of Alesund and Trondheim, so the evacuations could take place.
The Viking Sky was on a 12-day trip that began March 14 in the western Norwegian city of Bergen, according to cruisemapper.com.
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.
USA TODAY has reached out to Viking Ocean Cruises, which operates Viking Sky, for comment.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cruise ship off Norway issues mayday, begins evacuating 1,300 passengers and crew