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Divers See Bodies Floating Inside Capsized Ferry

June 24, 2008

By PAUL ALEXANDER

By Paul Alexander

The Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines

Philippine officials say divers have managed to get inside an upside-down ferry but have found only bodies and no survivors.

Philippine coast guard officials made the announcement three days after the vessel capsized with more than 800 people aboard during a powerful typhoon.

Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo told dzBB radio today that most of the bodies were floating inside, trapped when the ship suddenly tilted and went belly up Saturday.

He would not speculate on whether anyone still might be found alive – saying the ship’s interior was too dark to see how many bodies were there – but indicated that the time since the disaster made it unlikely.

Experts had been studying the ferry’s schematics in case they have to drill an access hole.

On Sunday, divers heard no response when they hammered on the hull, but officials refused to give up.

“We’re not ruling out that somebody there is still alive,” coast guard chief Adm. Wilfredo Tamayo said. “You can never tell.”

Hundreds of people were feared to have been trapped when the ship suddenly tilted and went belly up Saturday at the height of the powerful storm that left 163 people dead in flooded communities in the central Philippines.

All that was visible Monday of the 23,824-ton, seven-story Princess of the Stars was one end poking out of the waters off Sibuyan island, still churning after Typhoon Fengshen’s full force swept through.

Only 38 ferry survivors have been found, including 28 who drifted at sea for more than 24 hours, first in a life raft, then in life jackets, before they were found Sunday about 80 miles to the north in eastern Quezon province.

A U.S. Navy ship carrying search-and-rescue helicopters was headed in, and a P-3 maritime surveillance plane also was being dispatched. “We want to express our condolences to the Philippine people,” State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.

Officials initially reported 747 passengers and crew were aboard the ferry, but said Monday that it was carrying about 100 more. Capacity was listed as 1,992 people.

The coast guard said it was checking a survivor’s report that at least one group of people – some dead, some alive – had been spotted bobbing in the sea.

While some relatives tearfully waited for news, others angrily questioned why the ship was allowed to leave Manila late Friday for a 20-hour trip to Cebu with a typhoon approaching. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said the ferry never should have departed. Sulpicio Lines said it sailed with coast guard approval. The government ordered the company to suspend services pending an investigation and a check of its other ships’ seaworthiness.

survivors

Only 38 ferry survivors have been found, including 28 who drifted at sea for more than 24 hours, first in a life raft, then in life jackets, before they were found Sunday about 80 miles to the north in eastern Quezon province.

Originally published by BY PAUL ALEXANDER.

(c) 2008 Virginian – Pilot. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.




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