Philippine authorities said the death toll from the collision of a passenger ferry and a cargo ship in Cebu province has increased to 52, making it the worst such tragedy for the country since June 2008. Sixty-eight people are still missing as efforts to contain an oil spill intensify.
A total of 750 passengers and crew members from M/V St. Thomas Aquinas and cargo vessel M/V Sulpicio Express 7, which collided on the evening of Aug. 16 have been rescued, Commander Winiel Azcuna of the Coast Guard station in Cebu said by phone. As much as 30,000 liters [7,920 gallons] of oil have leaked from the sunken passenger ship, and containment and coastal clean-up operations are ongoing, Azcuna said.
The passenger vessel, which has an authorized capacity of 1,010 people and 160 units of twenty-foot containers, came from Surigao and Nasipit port and was scheduled to arrive in Cebu for a stopover at 10 p.m. on Aug. 16 before heading to Manila, owner 2GO Group Inc. said on its website. 2GO said it’s flying in international oil spill experts and several Japanese technical divers to assist in containing the oil spill.
The cargo vessel is owned by Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp. formerly known as Sulpicio Lines Inc. Sulpicio owned M/V Dona Paz which collided with an oil tanker and sank in December 1987, killing more than 4,000 people in the world’s worst peacetime shipping tragedy. It also owned M/V Princess of the Stars, which capsized in June 2008 and killed more than 800 people as typhoon Fengshen lashed the central Philippines.
Divers retrieved 11 bodies this morning before halting operations due to high waves and strong winds, Azcuna said.
The passenger ferry had 20,000 liters [5,280 gallons] of diesel fuel and 120,000 liters [31,680 gallons] of crude fuel in its fuel tank, while 20,000 liters of lube oil were being used by the engines before the incident, 2GO said. M/V St. Thomas Aquinas carried mostly agricultural products, it said.
–Editors: Colin Keatinge, Clarissa Batino