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Pattaya Daily News

23 June 2008 :: 14:06:44 pm 29117

Toll Ofmissing In Philippines Ferry Disaster Reaches 845

As of 12 pm on June 23, 2008, the number of missing from the capsized, 23,824-ton Philippines ferry, Princess of Stars, en route from Manila to Cebu on Saturday, has risen to 845 after owners, Sulpicio Lines, discovered an extra 100 passengers on the ship?s manifest.
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The toll may actually be higher, however, as relatives waiting in Cebu gave the names of a further 11 people suspected of being on the ship, but not listed on its passenger manifest. So far only thirty eight passengers are known to have survived the ferry disaster and they reported the majority did not make it off the ship in time.

The ship turned turtle after running aground near the port of Cebu, on Sibuyan Island in the centre of the archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, when powerful Typhoon Fengshen( now rechristened Frank) battered the Philippines at the weekend. Apparently, many crowded life-rafts sank in the stormy seas and coastguards were unable to reach the stricken ship because of swells and the atrocious weather.

Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, the coast guard commander, said 28 survivors had been found in Mulanay township in Eastern Quezon province and ten others had struggled to shore earlier. He said “We are hoping more people will have reached the shoreline.” Survivor Reynato Lanoria, a janitor on the ship, reckoned about 100 people could have escaped the vessel, but thought the remainder were trapped inside. The Vice Admiral declared that rescuers may have to bore a hole in the ship to allow divers access.

A coastguard vessel is currently trawling the waters surrounding the ferry, which is upside down with only its bow above the waves, trying to confirm reports that some passengers may have reached a small, nearby island, according to coast guard spokesman, Cmdr Antonio Cuasito.

Survivors of the ferry disaster spoke of pandemonium the moment the Princess of Stars suddenly lurched onto its side on Saturday. One of the survivors, Jesse, who landed at a small coastal village after drifting for more than 24 hours in a rubber boat, told local radio dzBB “Many of us jumped, the waves were so huge, and the rains were heavy. What I just did was to float in the water. There was just one announcement over the megaphone, about 30 minutes before the ship tilted to its side. Immediately after I jumped, the ship tilted, the older people were left on the ship. Jesse also recounted that two other people originally on the life raft had drowned in large swells. “It was no use,” he said, “the waves were big so they capsized also.”

Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, however, said she would not cut short her eight-day state visit to the United States, despite the disaster. President Arroyo did, however, give a video conference with disaster officials early today, June 23, and said coast guard protocols should be reviewed to prevent another vessel sailing into a typhoon’s path.

Meanwhile, a relative of a ferry passenger cries as she awaits, with at least 100 others, for the latest news inside the office of Sulpicio Lines in the port area of Cebu City, Central Philippines. Another complained Sulpicio Lines was not divulging information, while others, less stoical, raged at officials; one distraught woman told company employees “You can’t bring our loved ones back. You should be held responsible.”

Another grief-stricken mother , Celecia Tudtud, said “The last time I heard from my son was on Friday evening when the ship left Manila. He texted to say he was coming home. I really hope he’s ok.”

Philippine transport authorities declared today that they have grounded all the Sulpicio Lines vessels for inspection. The company’s ships have been involved in three other major disasters over the past 21 years.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : PDN staff   Category : World News

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