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.