Anguish as search for survivors in Philippine ferry ends

2015-07-03 14:30


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Ormoc - Anguished families wept over the bodies of dead relatives as the search for survivors from the Philippines' latest ferry disaster ended Friday with 45 confirmed deaths, officials said.

All 187 people on board the capsized Kim Nirvana were accounted for with 142 confirmed to have survived, Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo told AFP.

The 33-ton boat capsized in a calm sea several hundred metres from Ormoc city port on Thursday while on a regular trip to neighbouring Camotes island.

Seven bodies were retrieved from the ship's upended wooden hull on Friday, including that of a one-year-old boy.

His brother, Gilbert de la Cruz, aged 10, who survived the disaster, wailed over the dead infant's remains, which had been placed in a black body bag.

"There's no more hope for survivors," Ciriaco Tolibao from the city's disaster risk reduction and management office told ANC television.

As the search ended, authorities shifted to determining the cause of the latest in a string of deadly maritime tragedies in the sprawling archipelago of 100 million people.

"We will get to the bottom of this and make sure that this does not happen again," Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya told reporters.

"Is it force majeure? Is it human error? We have to know all the facts before we talk about culpability."

Survivors all recounted how the vessel was backing out of port when it suddenly overturned, giving them no chance to put on life jackets.

It’s brightly painted orange and green bow bobbed above the choppy waves on Friday.

The wreckage was later to be towed closer to the shore where it will be righted, Abaya said.

Government investigators will question the vessel's 14 crewmen, all of whom survived, he added.

The young survivor, de la Cruz, comforted by his equally distraught father, said he survived by clinging to empty water drums that kept him afloat until the coast guard rescued him.

The boy said he was standing near the deck when it tilted, allowing him to jump into the water.

But he was unable to warn his mother and two siblings. The father was not on board the boat.

"I'm very sad because I don't know if they are still alive," he said before his youngest brother's remains were brought to shore.

His mother and other younger brother also perished in the disaster and their bodies were among the seven retrieved on Friday.
"I am never riding a boat again," he told AFP, as he was comforted by an aunt whose eyes were swollen from crying.

'We're losing hope'

Nicasia Degesica, a 57-year-old seamstress, waited at the port for news of her sister, Erlinda Rosales, while other devastated relatives checked hospitals and morgues for their loved ones.

"We're losing hope that she is still alive, but if she's dead at least we want to find her body," Degesica told AFP.

Divers briefly stopped their search in the morning as the waters became choppy due to Tropical Storm Linfa, which was set to brush past the northern Philippines later on Friday, said Chief Superintendent Asher Dolina, one of the ground commanders.

The state weather service issued a gale alert for the central Philippines early Friday, warning of turbulent seas churned up by the storm.

Waves up to 4.5m high could overturn boats that try to leave port in these conditions, weather forecaster Gladys Saludes told AFP.

Poorly maintained, loosely regulated ferries are the backbone of maritime travel in the Southeast Asian nation, with many sea disasters occurring during typhoon season in the second half of the year.

Frequent accidents in recent decades have claimed hundreds of lives, including the world's worst peacetime maritime disaster in 1987 when the Dona Paz ferry collided with an oil tanker, leaving more than 4,300 dead.

The disaster-plagued Philippines is hit by about 20 typhoons and storms each year, many of them deadly.

Read more on:    philippines  |  maritime

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