Cebu ship collision toll rises to 71
Out of the 71 dead, 33 have been identified, the National Risk Reduction & Management Council said; 49 remain missing as of 7:30 am Wednesday

SEARCH & RETRIEVAL. Operatives of Philippine Navy on board a motorized rubber boat looking out toward waters off Cebu, 18 August 2013. Photo by EPA/ Dennis Sabangan

MANILA, Philippines – The death toll from the collision of passenger ferry St Thomas Aquinas and cargo ship Sulpicio Express 7 off Cebu has risen to 71, the government said Wednesday, August 21.

Out of the 71 dead, 33 have been identified, the National Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Council said. Forty-nine people remain missing as of 7:30 am Wednesday.

Divers engaged in the search and retrieval operations have recovered 5 more bodies from the sunken wreck of the passenger ferry as of 8:15 am, the Philippine Coast Guard said.

The NDRRMC counted 788 survivors from the collision, which caused the Thomas Aquinas to sink just off Talisay City late Friday, August 16. The Aquinas accounted for 750 of the survivors; 38 are from the Sulpicio Express 7.

Strong currents and bad weather as well as the difficulty of reaching the sunken ferry, lying at a depth of about 30 meters (98 feet) has slowed down recovery efforts, he said.

The province of Cebu remained under a state of calamity due to the oil that is still spilling from the sunken ferry.

Regional offices of the Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR) and the Bureau of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources (BFAR) are monitoring the safety of the waters affected by the spill. –