THE search area for possible survivors of the Iloilo-Guimaras Strait mishap has been expanded while casualties has increased to 31 with six passengers still missing.
Guimaras town Mayor Ruben B. Corpuz confirmed Monday, August 05, that there were 31 fatalities from the sinking of M/B Chi-chi and M/B Jenny Vince.
Rescue personnel from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Navy has extended their search areas.
The PCG has dispatched the BRP Cape Engaño, a patrol vessel to search the shore area of Dumangas, while the Philippine Navy sent their patrol vessel all the way from its base in Cebu City to the area of Banate and Ajuy in Iloilo.
The PCG station in Bacolod, meanwhile, has given an order to all ships still operating and passing by the Iloilo and Guimaras Straits to be on the lookout for any of the missing individuals.
Corpuz said his current priorities at the moment was to see to it that all of the stranded passengers in Iloilo and Guimaras to safely return home to their destinations.
He said there are at least 2,000 passengers stranded in the ports of Jordan and Parola Wharf combined, and the roll-on/roll-off vessel which was allowed to continue operating is only able to accommodate 300 passengers at a time.
Gale warning was issued by the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) as of Monday afternoon, suspension of trips of small sea vessels was still observed all over Western Visayas.
Corpuz further stated that he had talked with officials, PCG personnel, and the survivors. He said in the morning prior to the mishap, the weather and sea conditions in the Iloilo Strait is still favorable.
The weather only changed at around 12:15 p.m. when the waterways between Iloilo and Guimaras became rough with heavy rains experienced in the area.
Corpuz said he plans to meet with the boat transport operators and the families of those killed in the tragedy.
Authorities are presently investigating the incident.
Because of the gale warning issued Monday for the entire Western Visayas, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) canceled sea trips between Bacolod City and Iloilo City for small vessels.
Pagasa said the region can experience 45 to 63 kilometers per hour winds, with sea conditions from rough to very rough with wave heights measured between 2.8 to 4.5 meters.
PCG-Bacolod station commander, Lieutenant Rockcliff Buling, said all vessels below the 250 gross tonnage are barred from leaving port.
Buling said only two vessels from ferry companies OceanJet Fast Ferries and Weesam Express were allowed to sail, although OceanJet has issued an advisory on its official social media page saying they have decided to cancel all trips between Iloilo and Bacolod until further notice.
Roll-on/Roll-off services between Bacolod City and Dumangas, meanwhile, remain normal throughout the day, and there has been no stranded passengers noted at the Bredco port.
In a related development, Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson issued on Monday a memorandum to all local Disaster Risk Reduction Management members to undertake Pro-Active measures to help and give assistance in the conduct of search, rescue and retrieval efforts.
He also advised to conduct 'Coast Watch' for possible missing persons that may come ashore.