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Passengers Airlifted From Cruise Ship off Norway Amid Storm
A cruise ship with engine problems sent a mayday call off Norway's western coast on Saturday as it desperately tried to avoid being grounded on the rocky coast. Rescue workers then launched a high-risk evacuation of the ship's 1,300 passengers and crew, winching them one by one up to helicopters as heaving waves tossed the ship from side to side.
The Norwegian newspaper VG said the Viking Sky cruise ship ran into propulsion problems as bad weather hit Norway's coastal regions and the vessel started drifting toward land. Police in the western county of Moere og Romsdal said the crew, fearing the ship would run aground, managed to anchor in Hustadsvika Bay, between the western Norwegian cities of Alesund and Trondheim, so the evacuations could take place.
Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances. Norwegian media reported gusts up to 38 knots (43 mph) and waves over 8 meters (26 feet). The area is known for its rough, frigid waters.
Norwegian public broadcaster NRK said the Viking Sky's evacuation was a slow and dangerous process, as passengers needed to be hoisted from the cruise ship to the five available helicopters one by one. By 6 p.m., some 100 people had been rescued and were being taken to a nearby sports hall.
Later, reports emerged that a cargo ship with nine crew members was in trouble nearby, and the local Norwegian rescue service diverted two of the helicopters to that rescue.
Authorities told NRK that a strong storm with high waves was preventing rescue workers from using lifeboats or other vessels to take passengers ashore.
``It's a demanding exercise, because [passengers] have to hang in the air under a helicopter and there's a very, very strong wind,'' witness Odd Roar Lange told NRK at the site.
Video and photos from people on the ship showed it heaving, with chairs and other furniture dangerously rolling from side to side. Passengers were suited up in orange life vests, but the waves broke some windows and water flowed over the feet of some passengers.
According to the cruisemapper.com website, the Viking Sky was on a 12-day trip that began March 14 in the western Norwegian city of Bergen.
The ship was visiting the Norwegian towns and cities of Narvik, Alta, Tromso, Bodo and Stavanger before its scheduled arrival Tuesday in the British port of Tilbury on the River Thames.
The Viking Sky, a vessel with gross tonnage of 47,800, was delivered in 2017 to operator Viking Ocean Cruises.
Blast Kills Eight Children in Sudan, Police Say
Eight children were killed on Saturday in the Sudanese city of Omdurman when an unidentified object they found exploded, a police spokesman told AFP.
Seven children were killed on the spot, while the eighth one died of wounds at a hospital, Gen. Hashim Abdelrahim said.
He said the children, who were thought to be searching for scrap that they later sell, came across a "strange object" that "exploded" when they handled it.
The area where the incident took place in north Omdurman hosted a military facility several years ago.
Sudanese state media confirmed that eight children had died in a blast. It did not offer details.
Abdelrahim said police were investigating the incident.
Many school-age children often have to resort to menial jobs to earn a living amid a worsening economic crisis that has seen food prices soar.
The economic crisis has triggered nationwide protests for more than three months against the rule of President Omar al-Bashir.
Bashir has remained defiant. He imposed a nationwide state of emergency on Feb. 22 to quell the demonstrations, seen as the biggest challenge to his three-decade rule.
134 Fulani Herders Killed in Malian Violence
Gunmen killed at least 134 Fulani herders in central Mali on Saturday, a local mayor said, the deadliest such attack of recent times in a region reeling from worsening ethnic and jihadist violence.
The assaults on the villages of Ogossagou and Welingara took place as a U.N. Security Council mission visited Mali seeking solutions to violence that killed hundreds of civilians last year and is spreading across West Africa's Sahel region.
Moulaye Guindo, mayor of the nearby town of Bankass, said armed men, dressed as traditional Donzo hunters, encircled and attacked Ogossagou about 4 a.m. (0400 GMT).
"We are provisionally at 134 bodies recovered by the gendarmes," Guindo told Reuters by telephone from Ogossagou. He said another nearby Fulani village, Welingara, had also been attacked, causing "a number" of deaths, but he did not yet know how many.
Security sources said the dead included pregnant women, children and elderly people.
One Ogossagou resident, who asked not to be identified, said the attack appeared to be in retaliation for an al-Qaida affiliate's claim of responsibility on Friday for a raid last week that killed 23 soldiers.
That group said that raid was payback for violence by Mali's army and militiamen against the Fulani.
Ethnic rivalries exploited
Jihadist groups linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State have exploited ethnic rivalries in Mali and its neighbors Burkina Faso and Niger in recent years to boost recruitment and render vast swaths of territory virtually ungovernable.
French forces intervened in Mali, a former French colony, in 2013 to push back a jihadist advance from the desert north, but the militants have since regrouped and expanded their presence into central Mali and the neighboring countries.
Some 4,500 French troops remain based in the wider Sahel, most of them in Mali. The United States also has hundreds of troops in the region.
Security Council ambassadors met with Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and other government officials on Friday evening to discuss the violence and the slow implementation of a 2015 peace agreement with non-Islamist armed groups.
"Clear sense of frustration among many Security Council members at pace of implementation of Mali Peace Agreement," Britain's representative on the mission, Stephen Hickey, wrote on Twitter. "Security Council prepared to impose sanctions on those who impede its implementation."