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Hundreds remain on disabled cruise ship near Norway

Rescue officials said 479 passengers had been rescued from a disabled cruise ship off Norway's rocky coast on Sunday, as an intense rescue operation continued to transport hundreds of others still on board.

Seventeen people had been sent to hospital, said rescue official Jan Arve Dyrnes.

Rescue workers off the western Norwegian coast began the operation to evacuate 1,373 passengers and crew from the Viking Sky by helicopter on Saturday, winching them one-by-one to safety as heaving waves tossed the ship from side to side and high winds battered the operation.

The Viking Sky issued a mayday call as bad weather hit and engine problems caused it to start drifting toward the rocky shore, the Norwegian newspaper VG reported.

Watch: Scenes from inside the Viking Sky cruise ship

Passenger Alexus Sheppard shot this video on board the Viking Sky on Saturday as heaving waves and high winds tossed the disabled cruise ship from side to side. 1:30

Rescue teams with helicopters were sent to evacuate the ship under extremely difficult circumstances, including gusts up to 38 knots (70 km/h) and waves over eight metres.

By Sunday morning, the airlift was halted as two tugboats started steering the vessel toward the nearest port.

The majority of the cruise ship passengers were reportedly British and American tourists.

The cruise ship Viking Sky can be seen drifting toward land in strong winds, off Hustadvika Bay, Norway. The vessel sent out a distress signal because of propulsion problems. (Frank Einar Vatne/EPA-EFE)

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

The Hagland Captain, seen here on Sunday, had to drop anchor in the same area as the cruise ship Viking Sky when it sent a distress call on Saturday off the west coast of Norway. The freighter experienced an engine seizure in rough water. (Svein Ove Ekornesvaag/AFP/Getty Images)

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

The Viking Sky, a vessel with gross tonnage of 47,800, was delivered in 2017 to operator Viking Ocean Cruises.

Meanwhile, a freighter has experienced an engine seizure in the same stormy Hustadsvika Bay region off western Norway where the cruise ship became disabled.

Authorities say they have had to divert two of the five helicopters rescuing the Viking Sky passengers and crew to help the Hagland Captain cargo vessel's crew of nine.

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