Odd Roar Lange | AFP | Getty Images

Stranded passenger that were rescued by helicopter from the cruise ship Viking Sky are pictured on March 23, 2019 on the west coast of Norway near Romsdal. – Emergency services said on March 23, 2019 they were airlifting 1,300 passengers off a cruise ship off the Norwegian coast.

Hundreds of passengers survived a harrowing rescue operation after their luxury cruise liner experienced engine failure in stormy waters off the west coast of Norway.

Viking Sky, which was carrying 1,373 people on board, sent out a mayday signal Saturday afternoon as it had been drifting toward land in the Norwegian Sea.

Passengers had to be rescued one-by-one from the deck of the vessel and airlifted to a village just north of the nearby town of Molde. The ship finally docked late Sunday morning in Molde, a small city on the northeast coast of Norway.

American passenger Rodney Horgen told Norwegian broadcaster NRK he was evacuated off the ship by a helicopter. “It was like an angel just bringing us to safety,” he said.

But Horgen said it was heart-wrenching to see hundreds of others still waiting to be rescued.

“The worst thing I could say for me was walking to get in line for the helicopter,” Horgen told NRK, overcome by emotion. “You had to walk past a lot of people and their faces. That was hard — I did not want to go.”

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Stormy conditions in the area persisted Sunday, but with three out of four engines up and running again, the ship was towed toward land and calmer waters.

Norwegian authorities said they had the situation under control and suspended helicopter evacuations earlier in the day.

The U.S. Embassy in Oslo, about 300 miles away, sent a consular team to Molde to help American citizens who were evacuated. Passengers were booked in a handful of hotels in the city and some planned to fly home later on Sunday.

The cruise company said 479 passengers have been taken off the ship — 20 have been taken to hospital with fractures and cuts, but some are also suffering from trauma.

Over 400 passengers remained on board until the end, with a crew of 458.

The stretch of water known as Hustadvika and surrounding areas are known for fierce weather and shallow waters dotted with reefs.

Passengers from the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, posted images and videos detailing hours spent aboard the drifting ship on social media. Some showed furniture sliding around as the vessel drifted in waves of up to 26 feet.

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