Passengers describe desperate wait for rescue as cruise ship tilts and floods

Passengers aboard a cruise ship stranded off Norway said the vessel was being tossed about by wind and waves as they awaited rescue.

“It’s miserable as the seas are still very high with strong winds,” passenger Ryan Flynn tweeted at what he estimates was 3:15 a.m. local time. “The ship continues to pitch and roll. Captain is hoping the winds and seas calm enough to bring ship into port. Good luck!”

The Viking Sky ship with over 1,300 passengers and crew on board is moving at a slow pace after suffering engine failure, rescue officials said Sunday.

Passengers on board have been waiting at least 15 hours for rescue since the vessel sent a distress signal on Saturday.

Jan Terbruegen was one of the passengers to be rescued from the ship. He told CNN affiliate Dagbladet that he was trying to stay low in the ship to avoid seasickness from all of the tossing when he heard that rescue was available. And it came at a scary time.

“We could see that we were getting blown in towards some rocks. That was the most frightening thing I think. But luckily that wasn’t our destiny,” he told the outlet.

Beth Clark, another rescued passenger, said that she has friends who are still on board.

Passenger Alexus Sheppard told The Associated Press in a message sent from the Viking Sky that people with injuries or disabilities were winched off the cruise ship first. The atmosphere onboard grew calmer after the rescue operation’s first dramatic hours, Sheppard said.

“It was frightening at first. And when the general alarm sounded it became VERY real,” she wrote.

Photos posted on social media showed the ship listing from side to side, and furniture smashing violently into walls.

“We saw two people taken off by stretcher,” another passenger, Dereck Brown, told Norwegian newspaper Romsdal Budstikke. “People were alarmed. Many were frightened but they were calm.”

Rough seas in the Hustadvika area on the western coast of Norway, where the Viking Sky ship is now, have made the passengers’ wait tumultuous.

Authorities initially sent five helicopters and a number of vessels to evacuate those on board. They were forced to divert some resources when a nearby freight vessel lost engine power, putting that ship’s crew in danger, Joint Rescue Centre for Southern Norway officials said.

Helicopters airlifted passengers and crew members one by one Saturday. A spokesperson from Norwegian rescue services told CNN 418 people had been rescued. At least eight people had “minor injuries,” said Borghild Eldoen, a spokeswoman for the rescue center.

Rescuers are facing waves of about 6-8 meters (roughly 19-26 feet) high, Eldoen said.

In one video posted to Twitter, water can be seen rushing through the ship, and passengers are filmed raising their legs to avoid the flooding.

As of Sunday morning, three of the ship’s four engines are working, Per Fjeld, spokesman for the Joint Rescue Centre for Southern Norway, told CNN.

The ship is moving at a slow pace and the evacuation operation is still going as planned, he said.

CNN and Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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