Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Ferry sinking death toll at 108; 29 missing

More bodies were brought up by divers from the sunken ferry St. Thomas Aquinas in the last three days, bringing to 108 the total so far of dead in the Aug. 16 collision between the passenger ship and the cargo vessel Sulpicio Express Siete off Talisay City in Cebu, according to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

The divers of the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police and the Philippine Navy were ordered not to stop their search and rescue mission, which is now being undertaken inside the sunken St. Thomas Aquinas off Cebu,” said Commander Armand Balilo, spokesperson of the Philippine Coast Guard.

Filipino fishermen could not go fishing because the oil spill of the sunken passenger ferry has littered the mangroves of five towns in Cordova. “That’s why the fishermen have been assisting government divers in the search and rescue operation,” said Balilo.

The bodies that the divers found over the weekend were brought to Talisay, for identification, said Balilo.

Relatives of the missing passengers have exerted pressure for the retrieval of bodies as they continued holding vigil for more than two weeks at the office of 2Go Travel which operates St. Thomas Aquinas.

Company owners and government officials have not stopped giving assurances that all the missing would be accounted for.

Filipinos want to honour their dead with proper burial ceremonies.

Balilo said that Rear Adm. Rodolfo Isorena, the PCG chief, “has directed the teams of divers to check all sections of the St. Thomas Aquinas.”

“He [Isorena] assured the families of the missing passengers and crew members of the ill-fated ferry that the command was doing its best to account for them,” Balilo told the Inquirer.

The divers were earlier reported to have searched up to 60 percent of the ferry and were set to look in the tourist cabins.

The work of the divers has become harder with the increasing number of the dead and the missing. Earlier reports said that fatalities could reach 120, but this was adjusted to 137.

As of late Monday, the number of missing ferry passengers and crew stood at 29. The Coast Guard placed the number of rescued passengers and crew at 629 and 104, respectively.

According to Balilo, the PCG station in Cebu had made revisions to the number of casualties “based on body parts recovered, as well as validations by 2GO Travel (operator of the St. Thomas Aquinas), the Cebu Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, and representatives of the Department of Health.”

Most commuters prefer using passenger ferries when travelling across the nation. Lax implementation of regulatory rules often results in sea mishaps especially during the rainy season.

More than 20 typhoons devastate the Philippines during this period, which starts in June.

Tuesday 3 August 2013




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