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MANILA, Philippines – Setting aside their sea dispute in a moment of sorrow, the Philippines comforted China on Thursday, June 4, after a ship carrying more than 400 people capsized on China’s Yangtze River.
“The Filipino nation shares the grief of the Chinese government and people during this difficult time,” the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement.
“We wish our Chinese friends the grace, strength, and fortitude as they conduct search and rescue operations. The Filipino people hope and pray that our Chinese friends recover swiftly from this tragic incident,” the DFA said.
The DFA issued this statement as distraught relatives rush to the site of the capsized cruise ship. (READ: Murky waters, perilous currents complicate China ship rescue)
State broadcaster CCTV said 65 people were confirmed dead after the “Eastern Star” overturned on the Yangtze River in a storm on Monday evening, June 1, with hundreds of elderly tourists on board.
Despite sea dispute
Only 14 people have been found alive, some hidden in air pockets. Rescue workers started cutting into the hull of the capsized ship overnight in a last-ditch attempt to find any other survivors trapped inside.
The Eastern Star was carrying 456 people, most aged over 60, on a popular tourist route from the eastern city of Nanjing to the southwestern city of Chongqing when it sank in a matter of seconds.
The Philippines’ statement came as the two countries remain locked in a dispute over the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
Despite this dispute, China also comforted the Philippines when Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) killed at least 6,300 people in the Southeast Asian country.
China, too, sent a 300-bed floating medical facility to Yolanda-hit Leyte.
The Philippines has said the South China Sea dispute shouldn’t affect most other parts of the two countries’ relations. China has also said the Philippines and China “are destined to be friends.” – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com