Davide forms inter-agency task force-A A +A
Sunday, August 18, 2013
AS of yesterday, 172 passengers of the mv St. Thomas Aquinas were still missing while the number of casualties went up to 32.
Last Friday’s tragedy prompted Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III to organize an incident management team (IMT) and convene an inter-agency task group to coordinate all rescue and retrieval operations.
“We hope we can recover all of the victims,” Davide told reporters.
Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) District Commander William Melad said the site is 2.3 kms. off Talisay and is 110 feet deep.
The passenger vessel was carrying 715 passengers and 117 crew members from Butuan.
It was on its way to make a stopover in Cebu before proceeding to Manila when it collided with a cargo vessel.
Davide said that of the 172 missing passengers, some may have been from Cebu and have gone home, some could have been carried away by currents and some could have been trapped inside the boat.
Davide called all department heads for a meeting and assigned them to hospitals where some of the victims were taken.
He assigned some department heads to stay at the ship company’s headquarters at the pier area where some survivors were gathered.
He assigned department heads to the Talisay Fish Port, the base of the rescue operations.
“I instructed the Provincial Social Welfare Office to provide assistance like food,” Davide said.
Among the survivors are American national Stephen Nuer and Philip Harold Tyler, 61, from New Zealand.
They were taken to Chong Hua Hospital, said 2GO sales manager Luz Torrevillas.
In his IMT report at 3 p.m. yesterday, Davide said that there were 63 survivors taken to Talisay City District Hospital, 22 of whom were confined.
At the Vicente Sotto Medical Center, 42 survivors were treated for minor injuries while 19 were in critical condition.
At the Cebu City Medical Center, 27 were considered in trauma, 32 were admitted to the pediatric ward and one was sent to the operating room.
Twenty-nine survivors were taken to Perpetual Succor Hospital.
The search-and-rescue operation was temporarily stopped yesterday due to bad weather.
Volunteer diver Anthony “Bong” Nator said it was suspended at noontime. He said they were told the operation will resume today.
But Melad told reporters the operation was not suspended at noontime, when his men were still diving.
By 2:30 p.m., it rained and waves rose near the fish port. Davide suspended the operation late in the afternoon.
When the operation resumes, it will still be search-and-rescue, said Melad.
Volunteer diver Alfie Fernandez said PCG divers barred them from getting near the sunken vessel.
This irked Talisay City Mayor Johny De los Reyes, also an IMT member, since it was them who provided logistical support to the operation.
Davide welcomed volunteer divers saying, “We need all the help that we can get right now.”
Melad urged the IMT members to stay calm.
“We need to have control,” Melad said.
At 2 p.m. yesterday, Melad admitted the weather was becoming a problem.
He said all volunteer divers in the area must coordinate with on-scene commander Lt Rommel Mendoza.
Members of the IMT are Melad, PNP Regional Office 7 Director Danilo Constantino, Cebu Provincial Police Office Director Patrocenio Comendador, Office of Civil Defense 7 Director Minda Morante, Provincial Disaster and Risk-Reduction Management Center head Neil Sanchez, Mayor de los Reyes, Talisay City Councilor Danny Caballero and Cebu City Councilor Gerry Carillo.
Morante said Capitol, Talisay and Cebu cities may tap their discretionary funds and pool them together. She said calamity funds may not be allowed by the Commission on Audit.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 18, 2013.