TIGHT hugs and the silence of grieving residents met survivors of the Kim Nirvana-B accident when they finally arrived home in Pilar, Camotes in northern Cebu yesterday afternoon.
But as the coffins were unloaded from the boats one by one, the families who had been waiting for their loved ones started crying.
At least 45 bodies placed in white caskets reached Pilar at 1 p.m. on board the Philippine Coast Guard’s vessel BRP Batangas.
Thirty-six of the caskets stayed in Pilar, while seven others others were transported to Tudela, and one each to Poro and San Francisco, said Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (PDRRM) Officer Baltazar Tribunalo Jr.
Pilar Mayor Jesus Fernandez said that the municipality declared a state of calamity during a special session last Friday, so it can use funds to help survivors and families of the casualties.
Fernandez said they will give P10,000 to each family that lost a loved one when the Nirvana capsized last Thursday, July 2, off the Ormoc City port. Town officials still have to decide how much to give the survivors.
In the same session, a state of mourning was also declared.
Fernandez said they will prohibit all festivities until the last victim is buried.
The municipal hall’s flag was also lowered to half-staff.
From 59, the death toll rose to 61 after the search and rescue group retrieved two more bodies last Saturday night.
In an update last night, Provincial Information Officer Ethel Natera said a total of 142 people survived when the passenger boat sank off Ormoc City last Thursday.
When the BRP Batangas arrived in Cebu, it couldn’t dock at Pilar port because it would have run aground.
Town officials arranged for the use of a Junmar shipping vessel, which usually travels from Danao City to Pilar, to receive the survivors and transfer them and the caskets to the port.
The survivors arrived at the port around 2:30 p.m.
Mayor Fernandez said they were given an initial stress debriefing by the municipal social welfare office and members of the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office.
Dach survivor will undergo a full stress debriefing today, he said.
“They were depressed and silent,” Fernandez said.
Survivors were given food packs before they went home.
It was past 4 p.m. when the coffins were unloaded.
Of the first five caskets unloaded, one was immediately buried after a prayer.
From the wake to the burial, the municipality will take care of expenses, the mayor said.
There are still bodies left in Ormoc, where some families decided to hold a vigil before heading back home.
Multiple murder complaints were filed last Friday against the operator, skipper and 17 crew members of the MB Kim Nirvana-B in the Ormoc City Prosecutor’s Office.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, who went to Ormoc City yesterday, assured the relatives of the government’s help in seeking justice.
“Clearly, yung bilang nung pasahero ay sobra doon sa naka-manifest at ibig sabihin, di naka record lahat (Clearly, the number of passengers exceeded those listed in the manifest),” Roxas said.
He added that aside from overloading, the amount of cargo aboard the vessel could have contributed to the accident.