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Rescuers save 111 from sunken Philippine ferry

By Agencies in Manila | China Daily | Updated: 2014-09-15 07:01

Rescuers save 111 from sunken Philippine ferry

A survivor (center) from the ferry Maharlika II that sank has his wounds treated upon arrival at the Lipata Port Terminal in Surigao City, central Philippines. Rescuers saved more than 111 people overnight and recovered at least three bodies from the ferry. Provided by Associated Press

Rescuers saved more than 111 people overnight and recovered three bodies from a ferry that sank in rough seas after it encountered weather trouble in the central Philippines, officials said Sunday.

Coast guard Captain Joseph Coyme said search and rescue efforts by air and sea will continue because it is uncertain how many passengers and crew members were on the Maharlika II. The domestic ferry sank late on Saturday after listing and being lashed by strong wind and waves whipped up by a storm north of the ferry's path.

Numbers differ

The survivors have been rescued by two passing foreign ships and another ferry deployed for rescue operations by the company that owned the Maharlika II. That figure is way beyond the 58 passengers and 26 crew members that the Maharlika II's skipper reported in the distress call to the coast guard, Coyme said.

"There are discrepancies in the numbers, and we cannot terminate the search and rescue until we're sure that everybody has been accounted for," Coyme told The Associated Press by cell phone from the central city of Surigao, where the survivors were taken.

It is common practice in the Philippines for some passengers to board such ferries without being listed.

Poorly maintained, loosely regulated ferries are the backbone of maritime travel in the sprawling archipelago.

"Every single life is important," he said.

As he spoke, a Philippine air force helicopter flew low overhead to start a search. Coast guard personnel could be heard using two-way radio to ask civilian ships leaving the Surigao port to "help look for survivors, life vests" near the scene of the accident and along the coast.

Ambulance vans stood at the seaport in Surigao and nearby towns to assist any more survivors.

With good weather in the central provinces south of the storm, the coast guard cleared the Maharlika II to leave Surigao City around noon for a regular domestic run. The skipper sent the distress call a few hours later, and several passengers used their cell phones to call for help when the ferry's steering mechanism malfunctioned and fierce wind and big waves began to batter the stalled vessel, Coyme and other coast guard officials said.

Frequent storms, badly maintained vessels and weak enforcement of safety regulations have been blamed for past accidents at sea in the Philippines, including in 1987, when the ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with a fuel tanker, killing more than 4,300 people in the world's worst peacetime maritime disaster.




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