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Norway airlifting 1,300 passengers off SOS cruise ship

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By Agence France-Presse

Emergency services said on Saturday they had begun airlifting 1,300 passengers from a cruise ship in trouble off the Norwegian coast.

The Viking Sky cruise ship sent an SOS message due to “engine problems in bad weather”, southern Norway’s rescue center said on Twitter, while police reported the passengers would be evacuated by helicopter.

“The boat only has one working engine and the winds are rather strong. Therefore we would prefer to have the passengers on land rather than on board the ship,” police chief Tor Andre Franck said.

By 4:30 pm (1430 GMT) 100 people had been evacuated, with four helicopters involved in the airlift.

“It will take time to evacuate everyone,” Franck said.

The incident occurred mid-afternoon two kilometers (1.2 miles) off the More og Romsdal area of western Norway.

The cruise ship had been en route from Tromso to Stavanger.

“It is dangerous to encounter engine problems in these waters which hide numerous reefs,” Franck added.

Coastguard and sea rescue boats had also been sent to the area and a reception center set up on shore to accommodate the evacuees.

Another vessel had been dispatched to try to tow the Viking Sky into port, possibly removing the need for the airlift.

“The boat is stable. It has dropped anchor and one of its engines is working,” said a rescue center spokesman, Borghild Eldoen.

“For the moment everything appears to be going well,” added another spokesman, Einar Knutsen.

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