Oslo, Norway. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Passengers have praised Filipino crew members who helped evacuate 1,373 people from the stricken cruise liner Viking Sky after it encountered engine trouble and was swept toward rocks near Norway by heavy seas on Saturday.

The 163 Filipinos were among 458 crew members who stayed on board the vessel as 479 passengers were winched off by helicopters and taken by emergency services to safety in Norway.

Oslo embassy Chargé’d Affaires Mariel Algabre said she was told that passengers had praised the efficiency and support of the crew during the emergency. A statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs said that all the Filipinos were safe and were now back on dry land.

There were 915 guests on board the vessel when it sent a distress signal on Saturday. Norway’s Coast guard said the ship was only 100 meters from underwater rocks and 900 meters from land when it was anchored in Hustadvika Bay so that passengers could be evacuated.

Helicopters were used because rescue boats could not get near the liner, which was being smashed by waves as high as eight meters. It was eventually possible to tow the liner to the port of Molde, with the remaining 436 passengers and all crew members still on board. 

Viking Ocean Cruises said that 20 people were injured before the evacuations, mostly from broken glass. Passengers mainly came from English-speaking countries like the US, Australia, Canada and Britain.

“There are no Filipino passengers on board the cruise liner,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

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