Friday, 3 July 2015

Death toll from Ormoc ferry sinking rises to 45 as search resumes

The death toll from a passenger ferry that sank soon after leaving the port of Ormoc City, Leyte Thursday has risen to 45 as five bodies were retrieved from the capsized vessel on Friday, the Philippine Coast Guard said.

Authorities said all passengers and crew were now all accounted for, but moved to slowly lift up the ill-fated boat to check for more bodies after relatives insistedthey were still looking for people who were neither in the hospitals or morgues.

Search and retrieval operations resumed Friday morning to look for the missing, but by afternoon, after retrieving the last five bodies, divers stopped work; and are expected to continue retrieval operations Saturday.

Divers from the Philippine Navy and Air Force earlier joined rescuers of the Coast Guard in searching for at least 10 more missing passengers.

Ormoc City DRRM officer Ciriaco Tolibao said there was a total of 191 people on-board the MV Nirvana-B, as compared to 173 passengers earlier reported, plus 18 crew members.

As of noon Friday, Tolibao said, there were 141 passengers rescued, including the 71 people hospitalized in various hospitals in Ormoc, Leyte.

Earlier, President Benigno Aquino III ordered the PCG to conduct a speedy investigation into the cause of the sinking.

The ferry sank around 12:10 p.m. Thursday after capsizing just 200 meters from shore around 30 minutes after leaving port for Camotes island.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the sinking and the Coast Guard has turned over the captain, identified as Warren Oliverio, and other crewmembers to Ormoc police for questioning. Reports said the vessel's owner, Joge Zarco, has also been taken into custody.

Among the angles the Coast Guard is looking into are human error, bad weather and possible overloading.

PCG spokesman Armand Balilo told reporters that the investigation will commence on Friday with the boat captain Warren Oliverio and his crews already in (PCG) custody for their statements.

Initial investigation, however, points to human navigational error as the boat reportedly made a sharp right turn, after it was hit by strong waves, causing the passengers to panic and rush to the right side of the boat, causing it to tilt slowly before capsizing.

Initial angles being followed by the probers are human error, bad weather and possible over loading.

"The ferry was found to be carrying sacks of rice and construction materials, but it doesn't look like overloaded,” Balilo said.

The PCG is checking if the vessel’s structural design had been modified because of extra-seats uncovered in the boat, and if it was approved by the Maritime Industry Authority.

Meanwhile, Cesar Retor, a survivor, said the motorboat was equipped with life jackets but none of them (passengers) wore it. “Probably because they were surprised by the incident,” Retor said.

Some of the survivors, however, said, “We were not given life vests.”

Retor said there were at least 150 sacks of cement on board but it was stockpiled in good condition.

“Ayos naman pagka-pile ng mga semento. Kaya lang nung tumagilid na ang boat namin, nalaglag na mga semento sa gilid, at tumagilid na rin ang sinasakyan namin,” Retor said.

Initial list of survivors

The Philippine Red Cross posted in its website Thursday afternoon the report of its Ormoc-based PRC on the list of victims admitted to various hospitals in Ormoc City.

Friday 3 July 2015


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