Viking Sky cruise ship docks in Norway following helicopter rescues

STAVANGER, Norway (AP) - The Viking Ocean Cruises company says all the passengers and crew of its Viking Sky cruise ship are safe, the ship has docked in the western Norwegian port of Molde and passengers are flying home as soon as possible. This after the ship issued a mayday call that led to hundreds of passengers to be airlifted to safety. 

Accompanied by tug boats, the Viking Sky cruise ship limped into the Norwegian port of Molde more than a day after issuing a mayday call in a storm that led to harrowing helicopter rescues of half of its passengers.

The cruise ship issued a mayday call on Saturday afternoon as it had engine problems and feared it would be dashed against the rocks in a storm off the coast of Norway. Rescuers worked all night and into Sunday to airlift half of its passengers, 479 people, to shore by helicopter before the ship was able to slowly make its way to Molde on Sunday.

The Viking Sky carried 1,373 passengers and crew when it had engine trouble Saturday afternoon off the western coast of Norway. Afraid of dashing up on the rocks, it anchored amid heavy seas and high winds and began to evacuate everyone on board.

Amid wind gusts up to 38 knots (43 mph) and waves over 8 meters (26 feet), five helicopters flying in the pitch dark evacuated passengers from the heaving ship throughout the night into Sunday morning. Over 475 passengers were airlifted one-by-one off the ship.

Hospital officials have said one person is in critical condition, and eight others are still hospitalized

The cruise ship line said the next scheduled trip for the boat, a visit to Scandinavia and Germany that was to leave on Wednesday, has been canceled. It said it did not anticipate any further cancellations to the ship's schedule.

The company thanked both Norwegian rescue services and residents for helping the Viking Sky's passengers and crew under such difficult circumstances.

Norwegian officials said Monday they have opened an investigation into why a cruise ship carrying more than 1,300 people set sail despite storm warnings, forcing a major evacuation.

Dag S. Liseth of Norway's Accident Investigations Board said: "the high risk which the ship, its passengers and crew were exposed to made us decide to investigate the incident."