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Gov’t offers free counseling to ferry disaster survivors

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 15:14:00 07/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The government is offering free counseling to survivors of the MV Princess of the Stars and relatives of missing passengers of the ill-fated ferry to help them come to terms with the tragedy, officials said Wednesday.

One counselor from the Philippine National Red Cross has been assigned to each of the 32 survivors, Transportation Undersecretary Elena Bautista told reporters on the side of a National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) meeting in Camp Aguinaldo.

Families of the survivors who want to avail of the psycho-social counseling can contact the following: in Metro Manila, the National Center for Mental Health (531-9001, 534-3241), the University of Santo Tomas Hospital (406-1611) and the Philippine National Red Cross (527-0000, 527-1807, 143); and in Cebu, the Vicente Sotto Medical Center (+32 255-4703) and the University of San Carlos (+63915867-6966).

“There are reactions [that are] emotional, but we assure them that this is normal. They could also suffer from anxiety [or] phobia,” said NCMH head Ben Vicente. “It becomes abnormal when it continues after a month, [and] if it affects relationships, it becomes a disorder.”

One survivor for example, feels like he is floating at sea in a lifeboat when he tries to sleep, PNRC social services manager Aida Paez-Beltejar said.

Another survivor has developed hydrophobia, Vicente said.

The Princess of the Stars, carrying more than 800 passengers and crew, capsized and sank off Sibuyan Island in Romblon on June 21 after sailing into the path of typhoon “Frank” (international codename: Fengshen).

Bautista said the families of the missing would be prepared for the possibility that their loved ones could be dead, and taken out of their “suspended grief.”

The families are also told that the remains of their loved ones could be unrecognizable, and that they have the choice whether or not to view the bodies, Bautista said.

As of latest count, 207 fatalities and 32 survivors of the ferry tragedy have been confirmed, while 625 remain missing.

Search operations in the capsized ferry were halted June 27 after authorities learned that the ship was carrying 10 metric tons of endosulfan, a highly-toxic pesticide.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2008-07-09T08:02:04+00:00UTC07bUTCWed, 09 Jul 2008 08:02:04 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am07

Posted in Uncategorized

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