UPDATED: Philippine ferry sinks with more than 700 aboard
Posted by inzomaniac on June 22, 2008
As of June 23, 2008
TO SAVE his life, Jesus Gica of Mandaue City leapt from the mv Princess of the Stars into the churning seas off Sibuyan Island and climbed into a life raft.
Many others, he fears, were trapped below as the ship capsized.
“We were separated because of the big waves,” he said. “The others were also able to board the life rafts, but it was useless because the strong winds flipped them over.”
There are hundreds of them—possibly more than 700. As of yesterday, six were confirmed dead, including a couple found with their hands tied together.
The Princess carried 724 passengers and 121 crew when it left Manila at 8 p.m. Friday, according to the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).
A rescue ship battling huge waves and strong winds reached the ferry yesterday, one end jutting out of the water upside-down, more than 24 hours after it lost radio contact. There was no sign of survivors at the site.
“They haven’t seen anyone. They’re scouring the area. They’re studying the direction of the waves to determine where survivors may have drifted,” Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Senior Grade Arman Balilo said.
Commander Antonio Cuasito of the Cebu Coast Guard said several frogmen swam to the ship and knocked on the hull with metal instruments, “but there was negative response.”
“If weather permits tomorrow (Monday), they will try to penetrate” inside the vessel, he said, after big waves forced authorities to suspend search-and-rescue operations.
Reynato Lanoria, a janitor on the ship, estimated about 100 people could have survived, “but the others were trapped inside.”
“I think they are all dead by now,” he told DZMM radio after making it to shore by jumping in the water and reaching a life raft. Only four survivors were confirmed as of last night.
Lanoria said he was on the top deck when a crew member ordered people to put on life vests around 11:30 a.m. Saturday. About 30 minutes later, the ship tilted and elderly people and children fell on the rain-slicked deck.
A day later, villagers found six bodies—including a man and a woman who had bound themselves together—along with children’s slippers and life jackets that washed ashore.
The ferry initially ran aground off Sibuyan Island last Saturday afternoon, then capsized, said Mayor Nanette Tansingco of San Fernando, Romblon.
With the upturned ferry visible from her town, she appealed for food, medicine and formalin to embalm bodies.
Pope Benedict XVI said he was praying for the victims of the ferry disaster, particularly the large number of children aboard. The Coast Guard estimates 20 children and 31 infants were among the more than 700 passengers on the Princess.
All the remaining Sulpicio Lines vessels are grounded pending an inspection on orders of Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) Administrator Vicente Suazo Jr., said engineers Mardon Martin and Jesus Quiño.
Martin and Quiño said, however, that the Princess of the Stars was declared seaworthy during its last inspection in January.
Overloading was ruled out as a factor in the accident. Although it had a capacity of 1,992 passengers, it had only 845 persons on board. Marina is looking into its cargo loading procedures.
The Marina also set up help desks to attend to the relatives of those still missing.
In a media briefing at 4 p.m. in Cebu yesterday, the Coast Guard’s Cuasito said that the Princess of the Stars was found one nautical mile (about 1.5 kilometers) from the shoreline of Barangay Taclobo, San Fernando, Romblon.
The Coast Guard has yet to confirm reports that some survivors were in Crysta Gallo islet, some two nautical miles from San Fernando town.
As the descriptions of the fatalities were relayed—one woman, for instance, wore a ring with “Rose” engraved on it—distressed relatives waited and prayed in Sulpicio Lines’ offices in Manila and Cebu.
Bienvenida Angub was worried because her daughter Bernardette Angub-Ignacio and husband Aldwin were aboard the vessel.
Melchora Vidal also went to Cuasito’s office to inquire about her husband Vidal Andrade, 46, of Inayawan, Cebu City.
“Kada ring sa among cellular phone mataranta mi kay dili mi gusto’g bad news. Buotan kaayo tong akong bana (Every time our phones ring, we panic. We dread receiving bad news. My husband is a good man),” Melchora said.
Ruel Nugal told Sun.Star Cebu that his cousin, Minerva Torremocha, 29, was on board the vessel and sent a text message requesting them to pick her up at the Cebu port. The Princess was scheduled to arrive late Saturday afternoon.
Eloisa Gemino Pabo and her husband visited the Coast Guard office to inquire whether her father, Pablito Gemino, 50, survived. Pablito worked as part of the vessel’s housekeeping crew.
Randel Cañada of Mohon, Talisay City was also among the passengers on board the ship.
His wife, Richie Cañada, told Sun.Star Cebu that Randell, a seaman, was in Manila to follow up his next assignment abroad, but decided to return to Cebu after he was told that his flight will be in July yet.
President Arroyo ordered the defense department and local governments to remain on a rescue mode, in a teleconference from San Francisco.
Coast Guard commandant Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo reported to her that they warned all vessels against traveling at 11:30 p.m. Friday. But the Princess of the Stars left Manila around 8 that night.
He added that the vessel had engine trouble, which contributed to its capsizing.
President Arroyo, however, said that even if it already left port, the officers of the Princess could have been informed and advised to dock at some ports like Batangas, before proceeding to Cebu.
Lawyer Manuel Espina, Sulpicio’s legal counsel, said they had no doubts about the ability of the ship’s skipper, Florencio Marimon. Marimon, one of their star captains, has been the skipper of Princess of the Stars since the ship began sailing in 2004.
Sen. Richard Gordon, head of the Philippine Red Cross, said he has asked US authorities for help in finding anyone who might still be alive inside the ferry and was told “they are going to try very, very hard.” (EOB, AIV, AP, Sunnex)
MANILA (AFP) — A ferry carrying more than 700 passengers and crew sank in heavy seas during a typhoon off the Philippines, and many people are feared dead, officials and reports said Sunday.
The MV Princess of the Stars went down several kilometres off the coast of Sibuyan Island after being battered by huge waves overnight when its engines failed, officials said.
Four bodies washed ashore on Sibuyan and three survivors were found, but the death toll is likely to rise with the fate of the rest of the passengers and crew unknown, officials and reports said.
Some reports said the vessel began taking water after the hull of the 23,824-tonne ferry developed a hole. Witnesses reported lifejackets from the doomed vessel washing ashore along with the shoes of children and other debris.
The ship, en route from the capital Manila to the central island of Cebu, issued a distress signal on Saturday. A coast guard official said it had been trying to take shelter when the engines failed, leaving it stranded at sea.
“There were many plastic slippers of children also found floating on the shore but no survivors,” said Nanette Tansingco, mayor of San Fernando, a coastal town on Sibuyan about 260 kilometres (160 miles) south of Manila.
A police boat reached the site early on Sunday, and officers found the ferry flipped over with only its bow visible above the water line, Tansingco told local radio.
“They reported to me that there was a big hole amidships,” the mayor said.
The vessel was one of hundreds that ply the waters in this impoverished nation, where many people rely on inexpensive but sometimes dangerously overloaded ferries to travel between its thousands of islands.
President Gloria Arroyo demanded to know why the ferry was allowed to leave from Manila with the typhoon about to hit the country.
“I want answers,” she said from on board the presidential plane en route to the United States.
Typhoon Fengshen swept through the central Philippines on Saturday, leaving 60 people dead elsewhere and another 60 missing as heavy rains and strong winds triggered floods and landslides that destroyed buildings.
Tens of thousands of people were also left stranded from the flash floods, while power was also knocked out to towns.
As search and rescue boats headed to the sunken ferry, residents of San Fernando said wreckage, apparently from the vessel, was coming ashore.
“Life jackets and debris litter the shore. I saw a dead woman in her 40s along the shore but she was the only body I saw. There is no one else,” resident Melanie Rotoni told DZMM radio.
Coast guard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said the ship’s manifest listed 626 passengers and 121 crewmen, revising down an earlier number of more than 800 on board.
Regional coast guard official Cecil Chen said the Princess of the Stars was cleared to leave Manila on Friday morning shortly before the typhoon changed its northwesterly course and raked across the western islands.
With the typhoon approaching, the captain was instructed to take shelter and “attempted to do that,” Chen said.
However, the engine failed and the vessel was left stranded in the water off Sibuyan’s southeast coast.
“The engine conked out and (with) the vessel dead on the water and no immediate assistance could be rendered on the vessel. It suffered the consequence of drifting to the shallow portion and was grounded,” he said.
Congressman Eleandro Madrona, the legislator representing Romblon province, reported to the civil defence office that the captain of the ferry “issued the order to abandon the vessel … after the hull was holed and water entered the engine room.”
The three survivors floated ashore and were found by police in coastal villages near San Fernando, Tansingco told DZMM radio.
Madrona said it was “possible there are survivors” who managed to swim to safety on the tiny island of Cresta de Gallo southeast of San Fernando.