Death toll now 64; 56 missing in Cebu sea tragedy-A A +A
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
NO NEW survivors were found on the fourth day since a passenger ship sunk after colliding with a cargo ship off the coast of Talisay City, Cebu.
The death toll rose to 64, after bodies turned up in Bohol, as well as Cordova and Lapu-Lapu in Cebu. At least 56 remained missing.
Strong waves and currents again forced the suspension of retrieval operations in Talisay City around 10 a.m. Tuesday.
The families of the missing kept waiting for news that the number of survivors, pegged at 750 within 24 hours of the accident last Friday night, has risen. That never came.
An official of the Incident Command Task Force has urged the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to detain the captains of the two ships involved in the tragedy, the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas and the M/V Sulpicio Express Siete.
Meanwhile, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) wants the shipping company that will be found liable to pay for the damage caused by an oil spill.
So far, the oil slick has reached 10 of 12 barangays in Cordova town, said DENR Regional Executive Director Dr. Isabelo Montejo.
“The concern is to assess the degree of damage brought about by the oil spill,” said Montejo.
For the Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Crime Laboratory, the concern is different.
Its Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team has started extracting deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA samples, fingerprints and dental information from the bodies, in order to try to identify them.
Senior Superintendent Nestor Sator said the samples will be sent to Camp Crame and the results could take up to a month.
Eight bodies were recovered by authorities Tuesday, majority of them found in far coastal areas, particularly Cordova and the neighboring province of Bohol.
Sator said they are expediting the examination to ease the anxiety of the families and eliminate health hazards.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, there were 63 bodies brought to the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes on Junquera St., Cebu City.
Twenty-five of them remain unidentified.
Four of the cadavers were found in different areas in Cordova town on Tuesday.
Senior Police Officer Danny Alburo of Cordova Police Station said two of them were found by the town’s marine watch, on an islet in Barangay Day-as, at 6:10 a.m.
The bodies were that of a boy and an adult, who carried an identification card with the name Abraham Coma of Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur.
Five minutes later, police received a call from Barangay Bangbang about the recovery of two children, who could no longer be recognized.
Two other bodies, both adults, were also recovered inside the sunken vessel by Philippine Navy and Coast Guard technical divers yesterday morning.
Officials retrieved another body in Inabanga, Bohol after residents called them.
Another body was also recovered in Cuaming Island, in the same province, but officials have yet to determine if the cadaver was among the victims of the collision and sinking.
Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) Chief Neil Sanchez said the choppy conditions forced their divers to suspend search and rescue operations.
However, the oil spill dispersal operations by the Coast Guard and contractors of 2GO continued.
With more bodies expected to come in the next few days, Incident Command Task Force spokesperson Gerry Carillo was irked that the Philippine Coast Guard has not arrested the captains of the Aquinas and Sulpicio Express Siete.
“So many people have died. Why is the Coast Guard not doing anything?” Carillo, a lawyer and Cebu City councilor, told Sun.Star Cebu yesterday.
He said the two captains may be charged with reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide.
DENR, for its part, will try to compute just how much damage the oil spill has caused.
It will use the projected cost of rehabilitation, as well as the annual potential benefits, and the heritage value.
“Since the incident, we estimate that the oil spill has destroyed one-year-old mangroves and damaged the old mangroves,” he said.
He pointed out that Cordova is known for its bakasi, which thrives in the area because of the lush sea grass. But the oil spill poses a grave threat to the sea grass.
Regional Director William Cuñado of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) called on the affected villages to join the clean-up operations by government and private groups.
The EMB has collected nine water samples from various sites along the affected coastline.
Cuñado called for the use of indigenous or environment-friendly materials in containing the oil spill, such as coconut husks, to avoid contaminating the sea with chemicals that could prove toxic to marine life.
He added that the people can exchange these collected oil for money, as they coordinated with a treatment, storage and disposal contractor who will process the collected bunker fuel, oil and grease.
“We have been coordinating with the Department of Tourism together with the different hotel and resort operators within Mactan Island to establish certain mitigating measures to contain the oil spill,” Director Montejo of DENR said. (DSM/BAP/JKV/Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 21, 2013.