Nearly 1,000 people trapped on a ferry were dramatically rescued on Friday after 50 ships got stuck in heavy pack ice in the Baltic Sea, officials said, reports The Mail, London.
The passenger ferry Amorella was returned safely to Stockholm harbour after ice breakers helped release it from large masses of ice off Sweden's east coast.
A total of 50 ships and boats had been stuck for hours as gale-force winds built up the ice along the coastline north of Stockholm.
Rescue helicopters and military hovercraft had been placed on standby to evacuate passengers if needed. No one was injured.
'It arrived in the port during the morning,' sea rescue spokeswoman Christel Englund said. he Swedish Maritime Administration said the Amorella had 753 passengers and 190 crew on board.
The 10-deck ship belongs to Viking Line, which operates Baltic Sea cruises between Sweden and Finland.
The Regal Star, a cargo ship with 56 people on board, was the last boat to be freed from the ice this morning.
Three other ferries that got stuck in the ice were able to break free yesterday.
One of those ships, the Finnfellow, collided lightly with the Amorella when the ice pressed the two ships together, but there was no major damage to either ship, officials said.
Two ice breakers power through the frozen sea on a mission to free the ferries
Heavy ice cover is not uncommon further north, but the ice rarely gets thick enough in the Stockholm archipelago to trap powerful passenger ferries like the Amorella.
'There's no danger for the passengers as long as there's food and drink on board,' Mr Lindvall said.
Mats Nystrom, a passenger on the Amorella, told Swedish broadcaster SVT that there was no panic on the ship.
'The atmosphere is calm so there is no danger in that sense,' said Mr Nystrom, who is a sports presenter for the network.
He said the most dramatic event had been when the two ships touched.
'Suddenly in the loudspeakers there's a voice saying that all passengers must immediately move to the front. Of course at that moment the passengers got worried and wondered what was happening,' Nystrom said.
The maritime administration said the ships had ignored warnings about the icy conditions.
'Normally we can handle this type of obstacle,' Viking Line CEO Jan Karstrom told SVT. 'But in this case the wind is unfortunate. It's blowing toward land and it means that (the ice) is packed more and more against land.'
Three Swedish icebreakers helped free the ship. Finland also dispatched an ice breaker to help out, said Benny Paulsson from a maritime rescue center on Finland's southwest coast.
The Amorella, a passenger ferry with 753 passengers and 190 crew members aboard, returns to port in Stockholm this morning after the rescue operation
The ferry sustained damage to its stern after colliding with another ferry whilst stuck in the ice in the Baltic Sea