Death toll rises to 40-A A +A
Saturday, August 17, 2013
CEBU (Updated) -- Bad weather condition on Saturday afternoon forced the suspension of underwater retrieval operation, but surface search continues for survivors of the collision between a passenger ship and a cargo vessel in Cebu waters Friday night.
As of 5:50 p.m. Saturday, the Philippine Red Cross said 40 passengers of the M/V Saint Thomas Aquinas were confirmed dead; 31 of them were unidentified.
The M/V Saint Thomas Aquinas had 832 passengers on board when it collided with M/V Sulpicio Express Siete around 9 p.m. Friday.
NDRRMC also reported that 667 passengers and crew members were rescued, as of Sunday morning.
Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III said surface search continues, but underwater retrieval has been suspended, as the operations were hampered by big waves and rain.
Outgoing US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. condoled Saturday with the kin of fatalities. "Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you as you grieve the loss of life that resulted from this tragedy," Thomas said.
Davide said Saturday that he's hoping more survivors will be rescued, adding that he will head a meeting with the disaster council to address the needs of the survivors.
Divers from the Armed Force of the Philippines and the Coast Guard, and the disaster volunteers of the local government units in Cebu are helping in the ongoing search and rescue operation.
Rear Admiral Luis Tuason Jr., Philippine Coast Guard vice commandant for operations, said the Coast Guard has deployed teams to contain the oil spill at the site of the collision on Friday evening.
Central Command operations center chief Elmer Base said two Air Force helicopters joined assets of the Navy, Coast Guard and other civilian volunteers in the conduct of the search. He said the helicopters will check for survivors and casualties in the shoreline.
He added that Central Command chief Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda also requested for additional technical divers from the Navy. He said the divers left Palawan Friday aboard a C-130 plane.
"We expect them to arrive (Cebu) before lunchtime to assist the current 12 (currently) conducting dive, search and rescue in the area," he said.
According to initial report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the collision between the Manila-bound M/V Saint Thomas Aquinas 1 and M/V Sulpicio Express Siete occurred around 9:03 p.m. off Lawis Ledge in Cebu.
In the official statement of 2Go, it said that M/V Saint Thomas Aquinas, a roro passenger vessel owned by 2GO Group, was reportedly hit by the cargo vessel, owned by PSACC formerly Sulpicio Lines resulting in major damage that led to its sinking.
Some of the injured victims were admitted to various hospitals, 31 in Talisay District, 24 in Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, and 20 in Cebu City Medical Center.
Management of 2Go Shipping Lines also provided relief assistance to survivors; some 300 survivors are staying at Terminal, Pier 4, Cebu City, and others are at Sugbutel and Stella Marie Hotel. Other survivors in Talisay City opted to stay at sitio Salvador Chapel, Barangay Tangke.
Dead victims were brought to Pier 4 in Cebu City for proper identification and subsequently transported to Cosmopolitan Funeral Parlor.
Accidents at sea are common in the Philippine archipelago, because of frequent storms, badly maintained boats and weak enforcement of safety regulations.
In 1987, the ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with a fuel tanker in the Philippines, killing more than 4,341 people in the world's worst peacetime maritime disaster.
In 2008, the ferry M/V Princess of the Stars capsized during a typhoon in the central Philippines, killing nearly 800 people.
Survivors said many of the passengers were asleep at the time of the accident, while others struggled to find their way in the dark. (VR/JK/With AP/Sunnex)