Rescuers cut a hole through the hull of a freighter and pulled several crew members to safety Monday night, after the ship capsized in the frigid waters off western Norway (search). At least two people were killed and 16 missing.

Facing a bitterly cold night on the North Sea (search), emergency teams pulled 12 people from the waters or by hauling them through the bobbing hull of the 544-foot MS Rocknes (search).

The Norwegian-owned ship sent out a distress call before it overturned about 200 yards off the western island of Bjoroey at about 4:30 p.m.

Rescue vessels towed the ship to shallow waters and cut a hole in the hull, which allowed at least three crew members to be pulled out nearly seven hours after it capsized.

Darkness and the extremely slippery surface of the ship's hull, which was covered by patches of ice, complicated the rescue effort.

Witnesses said they saw crew standing on the ship's deck when it capsized, making it impossible to immediately say how many might be inside the ship and how many had fallen into the cold water.

The ship had a crew of 29 people, plus a Norwegian ship's pilot, aboard when it capsized.

Birgit Sildnes, a spokeswoman for the Rescue Coordination Center for Southern Norway, said two were killed and 16 missing. The 12 rescued crew members were taken to area hospitals, most in good condition.

"All of them were conscious, and talking," said Trygve Hillestad, a police spokesman at the scene.

Arleen Asuncion, of ship owner Jebsen Management's office in the Philippines, confirmed that one Filipino seaman died. Eight others were rescued and were being treated in the Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen. Fifteen Filipinos remain missing, she said.

Asuncion had no information about the cause of the accident.

Rescuers hoped to enter the ship to search for the rest of missing crew during the night, although they welded the first hole shut to prevent water from entering. Officials said the water temperature was about 41.

Other rescuers said the capsized ship had been stabilized on the seabed, and that parts of it were dry with air pockets.

"There is hectic activity on the hull to get into the ship but it takes time," said the rescue center's chief spokesman Bang-Andersen.

Sildnes said 15 different ships were on the scene.

Cecelia Wathne, also of the rescue center, said the crew included 24 Filipinos, three citizens of the Netherlands, two Norwegians and one German.

Atle Jebsen, of Bergen-based Jebsen Management, said the freighter, built in 2001, was a bulk carrier that had been loaded with stone bound for Emden, Germany.

Bjoroey is about 200 miles west of the capital, Oslo.