October 6, 2008

Toxic Chemicals Retrieved From Capsized Philippine Ferry

Toxic chemicals retrieved from capsized Philippine ferry

MANILA, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- Four hundred and two barrels of toxic chemical endosulfan have been recovered from the capsized ferry MV Princess of Stars more than 100 days after it sank off in central Philippines.

The Task Force Princess of the Stars, in a statement, said the last barrel of endosulfan trapped inside the capsized ferry was successfully and safely retrieved as of 1 p.m. Sunday.

"Sulpicio Lines said the toxic chemicals are now properly stored, awaiting the task force decision when and where to ship it in Manila for proper handling," the statement said, according to local TV network ABS-CBN News.

The retrieval relieves the fears that leaks of the massive endosulfan cargo might cause wide-spread environmental hazard in the region.

With the recovery of endosulfan completed, salvage companies will move to clear the ship of the hydrocarbons, other chemicals and fuels from the 23,800-ton ill-fated ferry.

Only after this will the divers begin retrieving the bodies of about 500 passengers believed entombed in the vessel, the report said.

"Priority was given to the retrieval of the toxic chemicals from the capsized vessel to ensure the safety of those who would do the body retrieval of victim's remains which will be the next step after all chemicals are safely taken out of the water," the task force explained in the statement.

MV Princess of the Stars, owned by Sulpicio Lines Inc., sank at the height of typhoon Frank on June 21, with about 862 passengers and crew on board. Only less than 60 people survived, while rescuers have recovered 200 bodies.

The rescue operation was halted after ship owner notified the task force that tons of toxic chemicals were believed to be kept inside the upside down ship bulk.

It was the fourth maritime disaster involving Sulpicio Lines ships since the sinking of the Dona Paz in 1987, the worst marine- time tragedy in modern history, in which 4,000 people died.

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