Photo: Action Press, REX via Extra.ie

Over the weekend, a commercial cruise liner called the Viking Sky with nearly 14,000 passengers and crew on board had to be evacuated when stormy weather and rough seas off the coast of Norway caused the ship to rock dangerously and it nearly ran aground.  The ship was struggling Saturday morning because its engines failed and it lost power and then it began to list and take on water under a pounding from 43 mph winds and 26-foot swells. Fortunately, the ship was traveling close to shore, making its way around the Norwegian coast.

  • Once it started taking on water, the cruise ship’s captain issued a “mayday” call and the Norwegian government began emergency operations.
  • Passengers waited with life jackets on until they were able to be airlifted by helicopter off the ship, and while they did, they shared many images of the damage on social media.
  • The helicopters pulled nearly 500 passengers off the ship overnight Saturday and into Sunday, and the remaining 900 or so passengers and crew remained on board until the ship was towed into port.  Small boats could not get to the ship to evacuate passengers due to the waves.
  • In total, 36 people were injured and went to the hospital with all but one released by today and most flew home yesterday.

According to USA Today, an investigation is now underway to determine why the ship sailed into the storm.  “We don’t know the reason why the ship sailed, knowing such bad weather was forecast,” Kurt Olsen, acting director for Norway’s Accident Investigations Board, told USA TODAY. “We have a very good weather service in this country, so I would guess the crew knew everything about the forecast. How they responded will definitely be part of the investigation.”  Torstein Hagen, chairman of ship owner Viking Ocean Cruises, apologized to the passengers for what they had been through.

Why This Matters:  An apology??  As if that would do it.  This particular Viking cruise ship seemed woefully unprepared to deal with the stormy weather it ran into when its engine failed, which begs the question of what it was doing sailing into the stormy weather in the first place.  Stormy weather is not unexpected in that part of the world, and it is likely to be a more frequent occurrence in the future due to climate change.  The commercial transportation industries — ships, airplanes, buses, and trains should all be better equipped to deal with severe weather when it arises in order to keep their passengers safe.  So should hotels that are sitting on coastlines that we know are vulnerable to storm surge and sea level rise.  This storm and resulting evacuation are not likely to be a freak event — and it shows that the tourism industry needs to be better prepared for climate change.

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