Philippine officials refused to give up hope of rescuing some of the 800 people missing after a ferry capsized during Typhoon Fengshen, even as the still-roiling seas hampered efforts to get inside the vessel yesterday.
Divers heard no response when they hammered on the tip of the 23,824 tonne Princess of the Stars that was jutting from the water off Sibuyan Island in the central Philippines.
“We’re not ruling out that somebody there is still alive,” coast guard chief Wilfredo Tamayo said. “You can never tell.”
But strong waves that have largely kept a small flotilla of rescue ships at bay continued to pound the area yesterday, leaving officials to plan the best way to get inside — either with divers from below or by a hole that would be drilled in the hull, Tamayo said.
Rescue workers would have to operate carefully. The ferry’s owner, Sulpicio Lines, said the vessel was carrying bunker oil that could leak out.
A US Navy ship carrying search-and-rescue helicopters was expected to arrive from Okinawa, Japan, late yesterday and a P-3 maritime surveillance plane also was being dispatched.
However, hope dwindled by the hour that large groups of survivors might be found in areas where communications were cut off by the weekend storm that left at least 163 people dead in flooded communities.
While relatives waited for news, others were angry that the ship was allowed to leave Manila on Friday for a 20-hour trip to Cebu with a typhoon approaching. The government ordered Sulpicio Lines to suspend services pending an investigation into the accident and a check of its other ships’ seaworthiness.
Although Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said the ferry never should have left, Sulpicio Lines said it sailed with Coast Guard approval. The company said it would give 200,000 pesos (US$4,500) in compensation to relatives of each person who died, along with financial assistance to the survivors.
Meanwhile, the Central Weather Bureau said yesterday that the approaching tropical storm would bring rain to Taiwan today.
The bureau said the storm was likely to reach the southern part of the Bashi Strait today and that it would bring heavy rain to the southern and eastern parts.
With the storm moving northward, both central and northern Taiwan would also see heavy rain, the bureau said.
Rainy weather will likely continue until tomorrow, it said. As of press time, the center of the storm was located 330km south of Dongsha Island.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHELLEY SHAN
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
CHINESE FIGHTERS: Beijing marked the US Cabinet member’s visit by briefly sending two warplanes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait yesterday morning President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday met with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar in the highest-level official meeting between the two nations since 1979. “It is a true honor to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from [US] President [Donald] Trump to Taiwan,” Azar said during the open portion of his courtesy call to the Presidential Office, which was streamed live online before Tsai and Azar held a closed-door meeting. “Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent,
PARTNERSHIP AND LEARNING: A Princeton University health policy researcher said that the nation would be a ‘treasure trove’ of information for the US health chief US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Friday said he wants to learn about Taiwan’s “incredibly effective” response to COVID-19, even though the nation did things that the US has fumbled, such as having a unified strategy and citizens willing to wear masks. Azar leads a US delegation arriving today for a three-day visit to Taiwan. They are to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and health system leaders, and Azar is to give a speech to public health graduates. “The message of this trip is about Taiwan,” Azar said in an interview, deflecting a question about China.
Taiwanese-independence advocates yesterday accused former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of breaking national security laws and called on the judiciary to investigate after his statement that “China will wage a battle, which will be quick and will be the last battle for Taiwan.” Ma showed his true colors “as a mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party” in his speech on Monday when he said the “first battle will be the last,” Taiwan Republic Office (台灣國辦公室) director Chilly Chen (陳峻涵) said. “Ma is threatening Taiwanese by claiming that Beijing will launch a quick invasion of Taiwan, but that the US military will have no