Passengers evacuated from Norway cruise

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Media captionHelicopters airlifted passengers amid high winds and treacherous waves

About 1,300 people are being evacuated from a cruise ship off the western coast of Norway, authorities have said.

Police in the county of More og Romsdal say the ship has suffered engine problems, and all those aboard are being taken to shore.

Norway’s sea rescue agency said the MV Viking Sky sent out a distress signal amid high waves and strong winds.

Five helicopters and several ships are taking part in the evacuation, the agency said.

However, a freighter – Hagland Captain – also lost engine power and two helicopters were diverted to rescue its crew. There are photos of the freighter on social media.

News of a cruise ship suffering engine problems first came through at about 14:00 local time (13:00 GMT).

Reports suggest the ship has since managed to restart one engine and move slightly further from the coast as the evacuation continues.

Fisherman Jan Erik Fiskerstrand, whose boat was one of the first to come to help MV Viking Sky, told Aftenposten newspaper, “it was just minutes before this could have gone really wrong”.

The ship could have hit the rocks “if they had not started the engine and fastened the anchor”.

It is unclear how many people have been rescued so far, with some saying up to 100 have already been brought to shore.

But police warned the figures will vary, and said they would “wait for counting until further notice”.

Each helicopter can carry between 15 and 20 people.

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MV Viking Sky was heading to Stavanger from Tromso

Nobody has been seriously hurt so far, police said. However, there are reports eight people have suffered minor injuries.

It also reports that most on board are British and American, but there are passengers from many other countries on the ship as well.

Sea rescue services said the ship was being held steady and the evacuation was ongoing.

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Helicopters are lifting those on board to safety

The Norwegian Meteorological Institute says some waves are more than 10 metres high, with one local newspaper reporting lifeboats were forced to turn back en route to the ship due to the “brutal” conditions.

Those brought ashore are being taken to a local sports complex. One volunteer said about 80 had arrived so far, and accommodation had been found for them in local hotels.

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Those evacuated were taken to a nearby sports hall

MV Viking Sky is a Viking Ocean Cruises ship, which had its maiden voyage in 2017.

Website MarineTraffic shows the vessel was en route to Stavanger from Tromso, and is drifting off the town of Farstad near Molde on the country’s western coast.

The area is known as the Hustadvika and is reportedly one of the most dangerous stretches of Norway’s coast.

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