Norway airlifts passengers off stricken cruise liner

Rescuers were working Sunday to airlift more than 1,300 passengers and crew off a cruise ship after it ran into trouble in rough seas off the Norwegian coast.

The Viking Sky lost power and started drifting mid-afternoon Saturday in perilous waters two kilometres (1.2 miles) off More og Romsdal, prompting the captain to send out a distress call.

The authorities decided to launch a helicopter airlift in very difficult conditions rather than run the risk of leaving people on board.

By early Sunday, the crew had managed to restart three of its four engines.

Authorities said 397 of the 1,373 people on board had so far been taken off by helicopter, with each chopper able to take 15-20 people per trip.

Police said 17 people had been taken to hospital.

The vessel was making slow headway at two to three knots off the dangerous, rocky coast and a tug would help it towards the port of Molde, about 500 kilometres northwest of Oslo, officials said.

Five helicopters were scrambled along with coastguard and other rescue vessels. Two tugs were reportedly closing in on Viking Sky.

Dramatic footage of the ordeal showed furniture and plants sliding round the lurching vessel as parts of the ceiling came down. Dozens of passengers wearing life jackets were seated around waiting to get off the vessel.