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The Latest: All Viking Sky passengers, crew safe; ship docks

STAVANGER, Norway (AP) — The Latest on the Viking Sky cruise ship that was stranded off the coast of Norway (all times local): 8:40 p.m. The Viking Ocean Cruises company says all the passengers and crew of its Viking Sky cruise ship are safe, the ship has docked in the western Norwegian port of Molde and passengers are flying home as soon as possible.

The cruise ship line said the next scheduled trip for the boat, a visit to Scandinavia and Germany that was to leave on Wednesday, has been cancelled. It said it did not anticipate any further cancellations to the ship's schedule.

The company thanked both Norwegian rescue services and residents for helping the Viking Sky's passengers and crew under such difficult circumstances. The cruise ship issued a mayday call on Saturday afternoon as it had engine problems and feared it would be dashed against the rocks in a storm off the coast of Norway. Rescuers worked all night and into Sunday to airlift half of its passengers, 479 people, to shore by helicopter before the ship was able to slowly make it way to Molde on Sunday.

4:25 p.m.

Accompanied by tug boats, the Viking Sky cruise ship has limped into the Norwegian port of Molde more than a day after issuing a mayday call in a storm that led to harrowing helicopter rescues of half of its passengers.

The Viking Sky carried 1,373 passengers and crew when it had engine trouble Saturday afternoon off the western coast of Norway. Afraid of dashing up on the rocks, it anchored amid heavy seas and high winds and began to evacuate everyone on board.

Amid wind gusts up to 38 knots (43 mph) and waves over 8 meters (26 feet), five helicopters flying in the pitch dark evacuated passengers from the heaving ship throughout the night into Sunday morning. Over 475 passengers were airlifted one-by-one off the ship.

As weather eased, a decision was made to halt the rescues and head to Molde, which it reached about 1530 GMT (11:30 a.m. EST) Sunday.

12:50 p.m.

The chairman of the company that operates a cruise ship that got stranded off Norway's western coast in bad weather Saturday praised the rescue operation by Norwegian authorities and the actions of the vessel's crew.

Viking Ocean Cruises chairman Torstein Hagen told Norway's VG newspaper that the events surrounding the Viking Sky were "some of the worst I have been involved in, but now it looks like it's going well in the end and that we've been lucky."

The company said in a statement that before the ship started being towed to the port of Molde on Sunday, 479 passengers had been airlifted to land by helicopters, leaving 436 passengers and 458 crew members onboard.

A tug boat and two other vessels are assisting the Viking Sky travel from the bay where it managed to anchor to land.

Hagen, a shipping tycoon who is one of Norway's richest men, said: "I am very proud of our crew."

11:35 a.m.

The air evacuation of passengers on a stranded cruise ship in Norway has been suspended so the vessel can be towed to a nearby port.

The Viking Sky carried 1,373 passengers and crew members when it had engine trouble in an unpredictable area of the Norwegian coast known for rough, frigid waters. The crew issued a mayday call Saturday afternoon.

Five helicopters flying in the pitch dark evacuated passengers from the tossing ship throughout the night and continued the airlifts at a steady pace Sunday morning.

The rescues took place under difficult conditions that included wind gusts up to 38 knots (43 mph) and waves over 8 meters (26 feet).

Some 17 people were hospitalized with injuries, police said.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Center said the helicopters had taken 463 passengers to safety by the time it was ready to be towed to shore by two tug boats.

9:50 a.m.

Rescue workers are evacuating more passengers from a cruise ship that had engine problems in bad weather off Norway's western coast while authorities prepare to tow the vessel to a nearby port.

Norway's Joint Rescue Center said 379 of the 1,373 passengers and crew members on the Viking Sky had been taken off the ship one-by-one and airlifted to shore as of Sunday morning.

The rescue center says three of the ship's four engines are working now and will help power the boat while it's towed to Molde. The helicopter evacuations will continue in the meantime.

The Viking Sky ran into trouble Saturday afternoon in an unpredictable area of the Norwegian coast known for rough, frigid waters. Police said the crew, fearing the ship would run aground, managed to anchor in Hustadvika Bay so the evacuations could take place.

More than 450 passengers were airlifted off a cruise ship that got stranded off Norway's western coast in bad weather before the rescue operation was suspended Sunday so the vessel could be towed to a nearby port.

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