Philippine Ship Collision Leaves Dozens Dead; 80 Remain Missing

Image: Philippine Ship Collision Leaves Dozens Dead; 80 Remain Missing The cargo ship Sulpicio Express Siete.

Monday, 19 Aug 2013 07:05 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A ship collision in the Philippines on Friday night has left at least 52 dead, with more than 80 still missing.

The incident occurred off the central port of Cebu, where the MV Thomas Aquinas passenger ferry, carrying more than 800 people, sank after colliding with a cargo ship.

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Despite poor weather disrupting search efforts on Saturday, rescue teams continued working throughout the weekend for the more than 80 passengers that are still missing, the BBC reported.

Warning that chances of survival are slim, a Philippine Navy spokesman said that survivors could have found air pockets beneath the sunken vessel and might still be alive.

"It is possible that there are air pockets in its compartments and there might be survivors," Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic told the AFP. "There is still hope that there might just be survivors there."

According to Fabic, many of the missing, whether dead or alive, are believed to be in the interior of the sunken ship, an area of the vessel where divers were unable to penetrate due to inclement weather following the collision Friday.

Rear Admiral Luis Tuason, vice commandant of the Coast Guard, also argued there could still be survivors trapped underneath the ferry, due to the speed at which it sunk.

"Because of the speed by which it went down, there is a big chance that there are people trapped inside," Tuason told the AFP, adding that the ferry sank within 10 minutes of the collision.

Many of the ferry passengers were reportedly asleep when the collision occurred Friday night.

Within minutes of the collision, hundreds of the passengers were seen jumping into the ocean as crew members quickly distributed life jackets, the BBC reported.

Of the 800-plus passengers, 58 are believed to have been babies. It is unclear how many survived.

Having ingested seawater mixed with oil from the sunken ferry, a significant number of the surviving passengers reported feeling sick after being rescued.

The 40-year-old ferry was operated by a Chinese-owned company called 2Go, the largest ferry operator in the Philippines, the BBC notes.

The cargo ship — Sulpicio Express 7, which had a crew of 36, did not sink as a result of the collision.

The strait leading into the Cebu port is a well-known danger zone, Arnie Santiago, the enforcement office chief of the government's Maritime Industry Authority, told the AFP.

"It is a narrow passage, many ships have had minor accidents there in the past. But nothing this major," Santiago said. "There is a blind spot there and each ship passing through needs to give way in a portion of that narrow strip."

The collision reportedly occurred in calm waters, approximately 1.23 miles from the shoreline.

On Sunday, the missing person roster was significantly reduced from the previous figure of 170 to the current 80 individual number.

More than 750 people were rescued by area military and Coast Guard search and rescue teams thus far, say authorities.

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Philippines President Benigno Aquino has ordered an investigation into the collision.

Related stories:

Divers Suspend Search of Capsized Italy Liner

Collision Suspected in US Yacht Mishap; 3 Dead

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