>> Passenger ferry collides with cargo ship in C. Philippines
The death toll of the collision between a passenger ship and a cargo vessel in central Philippine province of Cebu has risen to 28, with 215 others still missing, military and coast guard officials said Saturday.
By Saturday noon, 630 of the 868 passengers on board MV St. Thomas Aquinas passenger ship have been rescued, 28 people were confirmed dead, said Armed Forces of Philippine (AFP) central command operations center chief Elmer Base.
The passenger vessel MV St. Thomas Aquianas was about to enter the sea port in Talisay City when it collided with the cargo vessel Sulpicio Express 7 and sank near Lawis Ledge shortly after 9 p.m.
Teams dispatched by the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy kept searching for the 215 missing passengers. More assets are coming to Cebu to help the search and rescue efforts, Base said.
Two Air Force helicopters joined in rescue operations. The helicopters will be used for checking for survivors and casualties in the shoreline. Local civilian volunteers have also offered helping hands, he added.
AFP Central Command Chief Roy Deveraturda has requested for additional technical divers from the Navy. "We expect them to arrive in Cebu around noon to assist the existing 12 divers in the area," he said.
Noel Escalona, operations officer of the Naval Forces Central, said the divers did not enter the ship. "They can't enter, they need underwater knives because there are a lot of ropes which are dangerous to them."
In the latest report issued at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the injured were admitted to various hospitals in Talisay and Cebu cities. Management of the passenger shipping lines also provided relief assistance to about 300 survivors staying at Terminal 4, Cebu City.
Local media abs-cbnnews quoted 2GO President Jun Tagud as saying that surviving passengers of the ill-fated M/V St. Thomas Aquinas ship each received an initial financial assistance worth 5, 000 pesos (about 114 U.S. dollars). Tagud said the shipping line welcomes a probe on the incident.
Radio dzBB reported a survivor named Agudong said "It seems some were not able to get out. We saw dead bodies on the side of the ferry as it was sinking and some being rescued."
Coast Guard officer Joy Villegas said that according to the surviving passengers, the captain of the ferry ordered the ship abandoned after it began listing and then it sank after hitting the cargo vessel.
Ferries serve as one of the main modes of transport in the Philippines which has more than 7,100 islands. But sea accidents are common, with poor safety standards, lax enforcement and overloading typically to blame.