COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Norwegian officials have opened an investigation into why a cruise ship carrying over 1,370 people set sail along the country’s often wild western coast despite storm warnings, forcing a major rescue evacuation by helicopter.
Hospital officials have said one person is in critical condition and eight others are still hospitalised after the Viking Sky had engine problems off the Norwegian coast and issued a mayday warning last Saturday afternoon.
The Viking Sky had left the northern city of Tromso and was headed for Stavanger in southern Norway when it ran into trouble.
The ship anchored in heavy seas to avoid being dashed on the rocks in an area known for shipwrecks over the years. Norwegian authorities then launched a daring rescue operation despite the high winds, eventually winching 479 passengers off the ship by helicopter in an operation that went on for hours Saturday night and into Sunday morning.
Dag S Liseth of Norway’s Accident Investigations Board said, “The high risk which the ship, its passengers and crew were exposed to made us decide to investigate the incident.”
The rescue was also hampered when two of the five rescue helicopters helping the Viking Sky had to be diverted to save nine crewmembers from a nearby listing cargo ship.
The rescue workers managed to take a little more than half of the passengers off the cruise ship, but some 900 passengers and crew were still on it when its captain made the decision last Sunday just before noon to halt the evacuation.
It is now docked in the Norwegian port city of Molde, 390 kilometres northwest of Oslo, which it limped into Sunday afternoon on its own engines.
Liseth said investigators headed to Molde yesterday and declined to speculate as to why the Viking Sky captain had decided to sail to Stavanger in the first place despite the intense weather warning. He could not immediately say how long the cruise ship would remain in Molde.