Twenty people were injured as helicopters were sent to rescue passengers from the Viking Cruises ship Viking Sky after it lost power in bad weather off the Norwegian coast.

Almost 480 passengers were airlifted from the ailing vessel, the company confirmed today.

Derek and Esther Browne, from Hampshire, were among 200 Britons reportedly on board the Viking Sky when it sent out a mayday call in rough seas on Saturday.

Five helicopters and several ships were called in to rescue passengers.

Mr Browne told BBC News: “We had a few people on stretchers, several with cuts, a few with broken limbs.”

“We were going for the afternoon film show and the lights suddenly went out and then suddenly more rolling. We heard the anchor being dropped and then we were told: ‘Mayday, mayday!’ And the bleeps went off on the radio and that was it – we all had to evacuate.”

The evacuation was hampered by the conditions. He said: “The lifeboats couldn’t function and the RNLI couldn’t come out because the seas were so rough, so they sent helicopters.”

Passenger Ryan Flynn posted video footage of the evacuation on Twitter.

Viking Cruises said today: “We can confirm that as of 10am (Norwegian time) today, 24 March 2019, the vessel, Viking Sky, is safely travelling to Molde under its own power.

“The ship is being  accompanied by two offshore supply ships and one tug assist vessel. The evacuation of passengers has ended and there are currently 436 guests and 458 crew onboard.

“The 479 passengers who were airlifted from the vessel are currently on shore and arrangements have been made to fly them home, with the first passengers leaving today.

“Currently we understand 20 people suffered injuries as a result of this incident, and they are all receiving care at the relevant medical centres in Norway, with some already having been discharged.”

The line added: “Throughout all of this, our first priority was for the safety and wellbeing of our passengers and our crew.

“We would like to thank the Norwegian Redningssentral and the Norwegian emergency services for their support and skill displayed in managing the situation in very challenging weather conditions. We would also like to thank the local residents who throughout the whole process have been extremely supportive and hospitable.

“We are in the process of updating the website with the latest information.

“If you have questions or concerns about any guests, please visit https://www.vikingcruises.com/oceans/my-trip/current-sailings/index.html.

The ship’s next sailing, a Scandinavia and Kiel Canal itinerary which was scheduled to embark on Wednesday (March 27), has been cancelled.

Passengers and their travel agents have been contacted directly.

“We do not anticipate any additional cancellations at this time,” the line said.

Picture credit: Richard R Løkhaug‏