RIO VISTA (CBS SF) – An author and LGBT advocate from Rio Vista was among the hundreds of travelers awaiting rescue aboard a cruise ship caught in stormy ‘tornado-like’ winds off the coast of Norway.

The Viking Sky cruise ship was carrying more than 1,300 passengers and crew members, when it encountered the massive storm that hit western Norway Saturday.

The ship sent out a mayday call and began evacuating passengers by helicopter. The operation is expected to last several hours, because only one passenger can be ‘winched’ or hoisted up at a time.

Alexus Sheppard of Rio Vista, California tweeted video of the ship as it began to list, showing chairs, dishes, and other furniture sliding back and forth, even hitting a piano. Large ceiling panels fell onto passengers.

Another passenger told Norwegian television she “never experienced anything so scary.”

The cruise ship was moored between the western Norwegian cities of Alesund and Trondheim after experiencing a loss of engine power near Molde, according to Viking officials.

“Our first priority was for the safety and well-being of our passengers and our crew, and in close cooperation with the Norwegian Coast Guard, the captain decided to evacuate all guests from the vessel by helicopter,” said Amanda Hollinger a spokesperson for Viking Cruises. “The ship is proceeding on its own power and a tugboat is on site. The evacuation is proceeding with all necessary caution.”

Hollinger confirmed there were some passengers with “non-life threatening injuries.”

Passengers were being transferred to local hotels and Viking said it will arrange for return flights for all guests.

Concerned relatives can locate evacuated passengers on the Viking Cruise website. They can also call 1-888-889-8837 for US/AU booked guests, and 07585 779 853 or 0208 780 7900 for UK booked guests.

Shepphard posted pictures of passengers in life-vests, lying about, “sleeping everywhere.”

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