MANILA, Philippines – After 3 days of searching in strong currents, authorities said Monday, June 17, they had abandoned hope of finding alive the 7 other people who have been missing from the ferry that sank off Masbate last week.
Rescuers recovered two bodies from the sea and rescued 61 others after the MV Lady of Carmel went down Friday, June 14, off the coast of central Masbate island, more than 300 kilometres southeast of Manila.
Regional civil defence chief Raffy Alejandro said divers had not been able to reach the sunken ferry, believed to be lying on the seabed 1,300 feet (396 metres) under water.
“We are shifting from rescue to retrieval. We will search only if someone spots something floating near the coastline,” he told reporters. He said they had also withdrawn some of the search and rescue vessels.
The ferry mysteriously sank in calm weather before dawn on Friday about two kilometres from Burias island.
Alejandro said the sunken ship was in water too deep to be reached by navy divers, so it could not be determined if any bodies were trapped inside.
Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) officials originally refused to give up hope for the missing, believing they could have swum or drifted to nearby islands.
But Alejandro said the decision to end rescue efforts was made due to lack of progress and signs of impending bad weather.
“Operations have shifted from search and rescue to search and retrieval,” said Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, quoting the PCG.
“Rescue operatives (land, air, and sea) have covered a 120-nautical-mile radius from the place of the sinking, but sadly there are no sightings of any more survivors in the area. Despite the shift in operations, they will continue to be on the lookout for survivors,” she said.
The sinking of the ferry has raised questions as it came apparently in clear weather and smooth seas. Survivors are also reported to have accused the crew of not attending to them as the ship was sinking.
Sea accidents are common in the Philippines due to poor safety standards and overloading.
The world’s deadliest peacetime maritime disaster occurred near Manila in 1987 when a ferry laden with Christmas holidaymakers collided with a small oil tanker, killing more than 4,300 people. – Rappler.com
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