updated 8/1/2008 11:21:35 AM ET 2008-08-01T15:21:35

More than 40 passengers on a cruise ship were injured when it was hit by a storm off New Zealand that packed 23-foot waves and powerful winds, officials said Friday.

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P&O Cruises corporate affairs director Sandy Olsen said three passengers with broken bones were taken to a hospital in the northern New Zealand city of Auckland after the ship, the Pacific Sun, docked Friday.

The storm hit the vessel on Wednesday night.

Olsen said the vessel was never in danger, although it sustained some "internal damage."

Most of those injured suffered cuts and bruises, with some requiring stitches. Several elderly passengers among the 1,732 passengers and 671 crew left the ship with arms bound in slings.

Chris and Joy Vickers from the North Island city of Tauranga said they were on the top deck when a big wave slammed into the ship, throwing them around "like human rag dolls."

Others told of flying crockery and glasses and sliding furniture as the ship rolled in the heavy seas.

On land, the storm's wind and pounding rain ripped down swathes of trees, cut roads and electricity supplies and flooded tens of thousands of acres of farmland. One person drowned in a flooded stream.

'Ship was in no danger'
The captain had plotted a course from Vanuatu to Auckland to avoid as much of the bad weather as possible, Olsen said, "but on Wednesday evening the weather took a turn for the worse with seven-meter (23-foot) swells and 100-kilometer (60-mile) an hour winds."

"Loose items did move around the ship when she did take the sharp turn, but the ship was in no danger," she told New Zealand's National Radio.

Technical staff were checking the vessel ahead of its scheduled sailing time Saturday.

"She will only sail if she's in good order," Olsen said.

A group of Australian passengers said they had not felt they were in any real danger.

"It was a little bumpy, but nothing out of the ordinary," Gavin Partridge told TV3 News.

"It rolled a bit, a bit of internal damage when things moved, but that's what happens when ships move," he said. "It was a cruise holiday ... you take whatever Mother Nature dishes out."

P&O Cruises is a brand of Carnival Corp.

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