Wed, Jun 25, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Philippine divers find ‘many’ bodies in sunken ferry

AFP , MANILA

Philippine rescue divers have found “many” bodies inside a passenger ferry that sank in a typhoon at the weekend with 862 people on board, a navy spokesman said yesterday.

The news confirmed the worst fears for many desperate relatives awaiting news of their loved ones after the Princess of the Stars went down on Saturday off the coast of Sibuyan Island.

Rough seas have hindered search and rescue missions, although navy divers had earlier been able to knock on the hull — without getting any response. Yesterday, they were finally able to enter.

“There are many bodies trapped inside,” Lieutenant Colonel Edgardo Arevalo said.

He said the divers had reported that it was too dark to be able to give more detail about the dead found inside the doomed vessel.

“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.

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 swiftly that many people were unable to escape.

Coast guard divers had been waiting for the seas to calm down before entering the hull of the 23,000-tonne ferry, which sank when seeking shelter as Typhoon Fengshan tore through the central Philippines on Saturday.

Overnight the coast guard updated the number of survivors from 36 to 43 with about 12 bodies being recovered from the sea. They did not say where the other survivors were found.

Arevalo also said a US navy supply ship which had been dispatched from Japan had been spotted near the rescue site,

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

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