Norway to Investigate Cruise in Storm

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) -- 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 after a mayday call had been issued.

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

The Viking Sky is now docked in the port city of Molde (390 kilometers 241 miles) northwest of Oslo, which it eventually managed to reach on its own engines after a daring rescue operation in which 479 passengers were airlifted to land.

The Viking Sky had engine trouble Saturday afternoon off Hustadvika, just north of Molde, and sent out a mayday call. The ship was drifitng toward the rocky coast. Many shipwrecks have occurred in the area through the years.

The airlift evacuation went all through Saturday night and into Sunday morning, slowing for a bit when two of the five rescue helicopters had to be diverted to save nine crewmembers from a nearby ailing cargo ship.

Liseth said investigators were headed to Molde Monday and declined to speculate as to why the Viking Sky captain had decided to sail despite the weather warning. He couldn't immediately say how long the ship would remain in Molde.

Yngve Skovly of the police in Moere and Romsdal district where Molde sits, says that there is no suspicion of a criminal offense.

The Viking Sky is a relatively new ship, delivered in 2017 to operator Viking Ocean Cruises.

The ship was on a 12-day cruise along Norway's coast before its scheduled arrival Tuesday in the British port of Tilbury, on the River Thames. The passengers were mostly an English-speaking mix of American, British, Canadian, New Zealand and Australian citizens.

On Sunday, the operator said the ship's next scheduled trip, to Scandinavia and Germany, that was to leave on Wednesday, was canceled.

Calls to Viking Ocean Cruises on Monday were not immediately returned.

(KA)