39 dead, 80 at sea-A A +A
Monday, August 19, 2013
THE death toll after a collision of two ships rose yesterday from 32 to 39 and no survivors were found on the second day of the rescue operation off the Talisay City coast.
The number of those missing also rose from 58 to 80, after an inter-agency team obtained an updated list of passengers aboard the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas.
Both the captains of the Aquinas and the Sulpicio Express Siete cargo vessel are alive and reportedly in the custody of their companies, while waiting to be summoned by investigators.
Efforts to assist the 751 survivors continued. More than a hundred survivors were discharged from different hospitals in Cebu City during the weekend.
The collision has also led to an oil spill that is threatening the mangroves and the livelihoods of fishermen’s families in Cordova.
Leaders of Cebu’s business community called for stricter safety standards for inter-island travel, but also appealed that the suspension of both fleets be kept short, to minimize damage to the economy.
Choppy seas and the position of the Aquinas vessel challenged divers who inspected the site yesterday, said Commodore Reynaldo Yoma, commander of the Naval Forces Central.
He said the passenger ferry had overturned and could only be entered from the bottom of the sea.
“Only technical divers will be allowed to penetrate inside the ship because deep diving is dangerous,” he said.
Central Visayas District Commodore William Melad said that both ship captains, who have not given formal statements, are in the custody of their companies but will be made available for the investigation.
The captain of the M/V Saint Thomas Aquinas is Reynan L. Bermejo, while Rolito T. Gilo was the one in charge of the M/V Sulpicio Express Siete. 2Go operates the Aquinas, while the Sulpicio Express belongs to the Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp.
Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III clarified yesterday there were 870 passengers and crew members on board the Aquinas and not 832 as earlier reported, based on reports from 2Go and the Coast Guard.
The Incident Management Team the governor created has listed 38 fatalities, but as of 8:35 p.m., the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes on Junquera St., Cebu City said there were already 39 dead.
80 at sea
Eighty remain missing.
Governor Davide also visited yesterday the 2GO terminal at Pier 4 to check on survivors, along with Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office head Evelyn Senajon.
Leopoldo Soronio, 65, said that 2GO has provided survivors like him with plane tickets and P5,000 cash. Soronio from Puyat, Surigao del Sur traveled alone to meet his family in Manila.
He recalled that when the Sulpicio Express Siete hit their ship, the lights went off. He heard shouts and the passengers began to panic.
Soronio got a life jacket, then jumped from the ship as it kept sinking.
Lito Salvio of 2Go said that as of yesterday, they gave P5,000 each to 506 passengers and crew; shouldered the medical expenses of survivors; paid for funerals; bought 175 plane tickets for survivors who proceeded to Manila; and billeted the families of survivors and casualties in various hotels.
“We will continue to buy plane tickets for the remaining survivors if they want to proceed to Manila,” Salvio said.
According to Department of Health (DOH) 7, there were 53 passengers still confined in different hospitals in Cebu City as of 6 p.m. last Saturday.
More than 120 were discharged after treatment, while others did not need to be hospitalized.
On the second day of the search and rescue, six bodies were retrieved by a joint team of technical divers near Lawis Ledge in Talisay.
The first two, a man and woman, were retrieved past 9 a.m.
Six hours later, members of the Philippine Navy brought in three more bodies, a woman and two small children.
At 5 p.m., another body of a man was found and brought to the Talisay City Fish Port at the South Road Properties.
The bodies were delivered to the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes shortly after they were found.
Twenty-three of those who died were identified.
According to the Incident Management Team, they are Domingo Anonat, Alfonso Camanzo, Jonathan Cabural, Romulo Escrupolo, Nileta Ancla, Teogenes Jabines, Armida Manalon, Hilario Maligro, Lolita Butao, Artemia Bonotan, Vicente Ancla, Evelyn Caro and Cresencia Colipano, Nilen Manosa Menia, Antonio Arbutante, Joshua Rene Diaz, Cherry Durano, Julius Flores, Eugenia Balacuit, Horonata Laag, Queenie Galope, Jane Sanchez and Jessame Pigar Bacia.
39 dead, 80 at seaUp to a month
During the search for more passengers and crew, each diver can spend only 20 minutes.
They need 10 minutes each to go down and then back up.
In a reconnaissance dive yesterday, the divers put markers in the points of entry and exit, for the full retrieval operations that will start today.
Yoma said the divers have not penetrated inside the ship, such as going to the cabins, but bodies have been seen.
Yoma said the operation could take a month, depending on the sea’s conditions.
A party-list lawmaker is seeking a review of the government’s supervision and regulation of water transport operations in the country, in light of the collision.
Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon, a member of the House transportation committee, said he will file a resolution for an inquiry, which will take up the seaworthiness of vessels. (With Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 19, 2013.