UPDATE: Graeme Smith's parents rescued from stranded Norwegian cruise ship

2019-03-24 07:55
The Viking Sky cruise ship. (Twitter)

The Viking Sky cruise ship. (Twitter)

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Former Proteas captain Graeme Smith has tweeted that his parents, Graham and Janet Smith, are 'safe and being assessed' after they were airlifted from a stranded cruise ship on Saturday night.

The Norwegian cruise ship Viking Sky, which suffered an engine failure and had roughly 1 300 passengers and crew on board, had sent a mayday signal as it had been drifting towards land.

Smith initially tweeted: "My parents [are on] board, if anyone knows anything please message!"

News24 could not reach Smith for comment. However, shortly after midnight, Smith tweeted: "Thanks everyone, parents airlifted off safe and being assessed. Thank you to cruise staff and rescue workers. Appreciate everyone’s support and messages."

Officials in Norway say they have managed to rescue about 100 people from the cruise ship stranded off the country's western coast amid ongoing evacuation operations.

The crew was later able to restart one engine and the vessel was at anchor about two kilometres from land in Hustadsvika Bay, allowing the evacuation effort to continue. 

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to help, and the evacuation process was expected to take several hours.

"If we need to evacuate everyone, it will take a long time," rescue service spokesperson Einar Knudsen was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

Police chief Tor Andrew Franck however said that unfavourable weather conditions meant that "we would prefer to have the passengers at land rather than on board ship".

Norwegian public broadcaster NRK said the Viking Sky's evacuation was likely to be a slow and dangerous process, as passengers needed to be hoisted from the cruise ship to the five available helicopters one by one. 

Authorities told NRK that a strong storm with high waves was preventing rescue workers from using life boats or other vessels in taking passengers ashore.

"It's a demanding exercise, because they [passengers] have to hang in the air under a helicopter and there's a very, very strong wind," Odd Roar Lange, a witness at the site, told NRK.

Eight people suffered light injuries and had been evacuated, said the rescue service, which was coordinating the response. It did not give details of how the people were hurt.

According to the cruisemapper.com website, the Viking Sky was on a 12-day trip that began March 14 in the western Norwegian city of Bergen.

The ship was visiting the Norwegian towns and cities of Narvik, Alta, Tromso, Bodo and Stavanger before its scheduled arrival on Tuesday in the British port of Tilbury on the River Thames.

The Viking Sky, built in 2017, belongs to Viking Ocean Cruises, part of the Viking Cruises group founded by Norwegian billionaire Torstein Hagen.

According to the company's website, its passenger capacity is 930.

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