Philippine ferry-cargo ship collision death to climbs to 71

Aug. 21, 2013 at 8:02 AM

MANILA, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- The Philippine Coast Guard worked Wednesday to contain an oil spill from a sunken ferry as the death toll from its collision with a cargo ship climbed to 71.

PCG and navy divers retrieved five more bodies from the ferry Wednesday, taking the number of dead to 71 from last Friday's disaster when the ferry M/V St. Thomas Aquinas went down after a collision with the cargo ship, the Sulpicio Express Siete, in the Mactan Channel about 2 miles northwest of Cebu City, capital of Cebu province, the Coast Guard said.

The Philippine Star reported the divers continued to search for 49 missing ferry passengers and crewmembers. There were 870 passengers and crew aboard at the time of the collision and 750 people were rescued alive.

The Star reported the rescuers and volunteers were also working to contain an oil spill. The report quoted the ship's company as saying the ferry had 20,000 liters (about 5,283.5 gallons) of diesel fuel, 120,000 liters (about 31,700.7 gallons) of bunker or crude fuel in its fuel tank and 20,000 liters of lube oil for the engines.

The Philippine Inquirer said the oil spill had reached five villages in the Cordova municipality.

Isabelo Montejo with the department of environment and natural resources, said in a statement the spill was now headed toward other villages. Experts have been asked to assess the damage to mangroves in the area.

2GO Group Inc., which owns the ferry, said in a statement it is making all efforts to contain the spill and that is has hired four Japanese technical divers and an expert from the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd. for the work.

The St. Thomas Aquinas was coming from nearby Butuan City and the Sulpicio was leaving Cebu for Davao on Mindanao Island when the collision occurred. An official investigation has been ordered to determine the cause of the collision.

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