Sunday, July 15, 2007

12 Killed As Ferry Sinks In Quezon

A ferry sank in stormy waters in the central Philippines leaving at least 12 people dead and more than 100 missing, the military said. Huge waves rolled over the 400-tonne MV Blue Water as it lay half-submerged near the coast of San Francisco town, of Quezon province, southeast of Manila as dusk approached, some 12 hours after the accident, with rescue efforts halted, local officials said. Divers were on standby, waiting for calmer seas before going into the water to check the ferry’s cabins where many of the missing passengers are feared to have been trapped, said Perpetuo Garcia, a local official. “Rescue efforts were halted before midday. They are set to try again before it gets dark,” he said by telephone. The sinking came as super-typhoon Man-yi streaked off the eastern Philippines en route to southern Japan. “The captain, Virgilio Retardo, interviewed by my lieutenant, said there were 256 passengers and 14 vehices onboard when the vessel went down,” the regional military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Rhoderick Parayno, said. So far, they had found 129 survivors and 12 bodies, he said. “We can’t be sure of the number of people missing because we don’t know the exact number of the passengers,” he added. The roll-on roll-off vessel went down in the Sibuyan Sea off the southern tip of Luzon island at dawn while en route to the island of Masbate from Lucena in southern Luzon.
MV Blue Water
“The captain sensed that the current was too strong,” Parayno said. He tried to seek shelter off San Francisco when the ship hit a “big rock that caused the vessel to tilt.” Media reports said many passengers panicked and jumped overboard as the ferry listed, some 500m from shore. “We dispatched two helicopters but they found nothing,” he said. “They had to turn back as bad weather set in.” Although the sky is clear, the waters are rough and a naval vessel sent to help in the search also had to turn back and seek shelter in nearby Marinduque island. It will attempt to reach the area “when the waves die down a bit. We have special forces divers on standby to assist,” Parayno said. Coast guard Commander Eli Tumulac said confusion remained as to how many people were aboard the ship as only 28 passengers and 21 crewmen were listed in the manifest. Ferries in the Philippines often fail to list all their travellers and are often overloaded. “How do you explain the 126 survivors? Something is wrong,” Parayno said. Tumulac said the coast guard has reported nine dead, 106 rescued with no exact figure for those missing. He said they were trying to reconcile these figures with those of the military. Mark Edades, another official of San Francisco town, said local police and agriculture department officials were the
“They have some boats for fisheries monitoring and they know the area well,” he said. Garcia said the police, the military and rural health workers were patrolling the sea shore, littered with pieces of luggage from the stricken ship, to see if there were any more casualties.

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