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Brownman

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Victims found trapped in ferry
« on: June 25, 2008, 10:54:30 AM »
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Navy divers pulled out bodies yesterday from the capsized Princess of the Stars and found more inside the ill-fated ship, confirming the worst fears of distraught relatives of missing passengers.

Rough seas have hindered search and rescue operations, although divers had earlier been able to knock on the hull – without getting any response. They were finally able to enter the upturned ship yesterday.

“There are many bodies trapped inside,” said Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo.

Coast Guard Commodore Luis Tuazon said two bodies were retrieved near the entrance of the vessel, and one of the bodies appeared to be that of a crew because it was still in uniform and held a radio. Frogmen recounted seeing bodies floating face up inside the ship.

The divers also spoke of difficulty in  extricating the bodies – some from a tangle of cables – because they were in advanced stage of decomposition and might tear apart easily.

“Our divers were able to get in early this morning. They were able to pull out two bodies so far,” Tuazon said.

Princess of the Stars sank in rough waters off Romblon at the height of typhoon “Frank” (international codename Fengshen) on Saturday. The vessel, with 862 passengers and 121 crew, was on its way to Cebu from Manila when it ran into the path of the typhoon while seeking shelter.

Arevalo said the divers couldn’t provide much details about the dead found inside the ill-fated vessel because of poor visibility.

“It was too dark inside to tell how many were children or elderly, but they did say they were mostly floating and they were apparently trapped inside,” he said. Asked if there might be survivors trapped in air pockets inside the vessel, Arevalo said “miracles do happen.” 

Arevalo said the waters were still quite rough, making it difficult to enter and exit the sunken vessel.

“What complicates our problem is how to extricate the bodies. One of the ways they are thinking about is to weigh them down so they can take them out from the bottom of the ship. Another option is to cut the hull,” he said.

He refused to speculate on how many bodies might be inside the vessel but recalled survivors’ accounts that the vessel sank so quickly that many people were unable to escape.

He said it was possible some passengers could have survived initially, but the roiling seas had kept rescuers at bay too long and suffocation may have claimed some lives.

Arevalo said that while some of the bodies had life vests, “it seems the passengers hesitated from jumping into the turbulent waters” because “it happened too suddenly,” referring to survivors’ accounts of the ship quickly listing and going down in a half-hour or less.

“(With the life vests) you will survive for a few hours, but in time, the air will run out,” he added.

Coast Guard chief Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo said about 20 divers were at the scene and were expected to be joined by frogmen from a US Navy ship coming from Guam. Another US Navy ship, the USS Stockham, arrived from Japan to assist in the search and rescue efforts.

Tamayo said the divers had broken windows and used every other gap they could find to get inside the 23,824-ton Princess of the Stars, which has only one end jutting from the water off Sibuyan island.

Coast guard divers had been waiting for the seas to calm down before entering the hull of the ferry.

The Coast Guard, said spokesman Armand Balilo, is still focused on search and rescue and that it’s up to on-scene commander Commodore Cecille Chen to shift to search and retrieval.

“We have been receiving calls from relatives who said they have already been contacted by a relative who was on board the ship,” Balilo said.

“It is possible that many people were trapped in the ship and maybe many of them are still in the cabins,” he said.

A US navy P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft, which had also been ordered to join the search, had been flying over the area.

“The US navy ship USS Stockham will assist us in our efforts,” Tuazon said.

“It’s very dark inside. There is a need for us to install underwater lighting equipment in order for our divers to penetrate each and every compartment of the vessel,” Tuazon said.

Residents from nearby Sibuyan island gathered along the shoreline to watch the grim retrieval operation. The smell of diesel hung in the air.

Earlier, a helicopter from the USS Stockham spotted 12 bodies floating near Masbate island, at least 70 km east of Sibuyan, local radio reported. It was unclear if they were from the Princess of the Stars.

Oil spill feared

Fears of a massive oil spill have complicated efforts to recover bodies from inside the sunken Princess of the Stars.

A slick of oil had formed around the ship, but local officials said it did not represent a leak.

Although divers found no sign of life when they inspected the capsized ferry off central Sibuyan Island, Vice President Noli de Castro said he was “still hopeful.”

At a press conference in San Fernando, Sibuyan, De Castro said some people may have survived in an air pocket inside the ship.

“Who knows, we might see a miracle. We still believe in miracles,” he said.

But he said one of the problems hampering the recovery operations was fuel inside the ferry’s tanks.

“If we siphon off the fuel the ferry could tilt and fall over (spilling oil), complicating rescue and recovery efforts further,” he said.

De Castro appealed to the public for patience, saying that the recovery operations “will not be as quick as we thought.”

“The important thing is we do things correctly,” he said.

“If we do it quickly, there might be a bigger disaster,” De Castro told reporters after inspecting the rescue operations.

The ferry is sitting upside down on a coral reef off Sibuyan island with the bottom of the hull exposed above the water.

Reporters saw oil spill booms being positioned around the ferry as divers began removing bodies.

De Castro said additional diving supplies had been brought in and that they hoped to eventually deploy 40 divers, including possibly 10 from USS Stockham.

National Disaster Coordinating Council head Anthony Golez said 57 people had survived Saturday’s sinking, one of the worst maritime disasters in the country’s history. – With Roel Pareño, Evelyn Macairan, Ed Amoroso, and AP





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Glen

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Re: Victims found trapped in ferry
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2008, 11:50:30 AM »
Salamat ani Brownman.
You can never really live anyone else's life, not even your child's.
   The influence you exert is through your own life, and what you've
      become yourself.


Brownman

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Re: Victims found trapped in ferry
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2008, 12:43:31 PM »

way sapayan Glen.



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