Philippines Scours for Survivors After Sea Collision Kills 24

The Philippine Navy and coast guard are searching for survivors after the collision of a passenger ferry and a cargo ship killed at least 24 people and left more than 200 missing.

The M/V St. Thomas Aquinas that was carrying 870 people including the crew, sank after colliding with cargo vessel M/V Sulpicio Express 7 with 38 crew members about 9 p.m. yesterday off the waters of Talisay, Cebu in the central Philippines, according to the latest report of the government’s disaster risk reduction agency on its website. As of 7 a.m., 572 were rescued and 274 are missing, it said.

The death toll climbed to 35, with 216 missing and 630 rescued, Lieutenant Jim Alagao of the armed forces said in a telephone interview today. Of those rescued, 247 were taken to hospitals in Cebu, he said.

The passenger vessel, which also carried 104 units of twenty-foot containers, has an authorized capacity of 1,010 people and 160 units of twenty-foot containers, according to a statement on the website of owner 2GO Group Inc. The ship came from Surigao and Nasipit port and was scheduled to arrive in Cebu for a stopover at 10 p.m. before heading to Manila, it said.

The cargo vessel is owned by Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp. formerly known as Sulpicio Lines Inc. Sulpicio owned M/V Dona Paz which collided with an oil tanker and sank in December 1987, killing more than 4,000 people in the world’s worst peacetime shipping tragedy. It also owned M/V Princess of Stars which capsized in June 2008, killing more than 800 people, as typhoon Fengshen lashed the central Philippines.

Divers Join Search

“The navy, coast guard and even civilian volunteers are conducting search and rescue,” Alagao said. “We are prioritizing rescue operations before government agencies start investigation.”

Divers from Palawan and Manila arrived in Cebu today to join search and rescue, he said.

In December 1994, a crowded passenger ferry and a Singapore-based cargo vessel collided in shark-infested waters near Manila Bay, killing at least 34 and leaving more than a hundred missing. A passenger vessel sank off the waters of Masbate in June this year, killing at least two people, with seven missing, the government’s risk agency reported on its website.