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Search resumes for sunken ferry passengers

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 09:28:00 06/25/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Even as the chances of finding survivors are “getting slimmer,” some 100 divers resumed Wednesday their search inside the ferry that capsized off Romblon province over the weekend during the onslaught of typhoon “Frank,” an official of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said.

On Tuesday, frogmen entered the MV Princess of the Stars for the first time and retrieved three bodies, bringing the death toll due to the sea mishap to 70. A total of 48 survivors have also been recovered, according to the Coast Guard.

Chances for survival are slim in parts of the ship that have been submerged for four days. Even if some survivors swam to air pockets, their oxygen supply could be diminished, said Lieutenant Commander Rogelio Villanueva, who represented the PCG at the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC).

“The chances of getting live passengers and crew are getting slimmer,” Villanueva told a news conference hosted by the NDCC.

“We are racing against time to save lives and retrieve bodies as soon as possible before they reach an advanced state of decomposition,” he added.

“We will have full mobilization today. We are concentrating on finding more survivors or bodies from the ship,” said Villanueva, who is the Flag Secretary for special concerns of the Coast Guard commandant, Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo.

Villanueva said authorities were searching for at least 744 more bodies or survivors. The M/V Princess of the Stars was carrying 862 passengers and crew when it capsized in rough waters spawned by Frank last Saturday.

The diving sorties by over a dozen rescuers on Tuesday were hampered by darkness inside the ship, which was compounded by the lack of search lights.

Villanueva said additional search lights from the Coast Guard headquarters in Manila and from the USS Stockham would be used by the divers.

“We admit that we have limited lighting capability, but our divers are very capable,” Villaneva said.

Floods triggered by the storm also left 291 people killed, and 166 people wounded. Of the total number of fatalities, 216, who died mostly due to drowning, were from the Western Visayas region, according to data from the Department of Health.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2008-06-25T03:58:50+00:00UTC06bUTCWed, 25 Jun 2008 03:58:50 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

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