Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ship sinks; 167 passengers safe


MANILA, Philippines -- All 167 crewmen and passengers of a ship were rescued safely before the vessel sank off the coast of Iloilo Sunday morning.

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesman Lt. Commander Algier Ricafrente said all the crewmen and passengers of MV Trans Asia Malaysia were safely transferred to other vessels after the ship captain issued an abandon-ship order shortly before the vessel capsized.

“Maayos at supervised ang transfer. The 107 passengers and 60 crewmen are all safe,” Ricafrente told Manila Bulletin in a telephone in-terview.

“Patuloy pa rin naman ginagalugad ng Coast Guard team natin yung area para sigurado tayo na wala talagang nasawi or nasaktan dahil sa paglubog ng barko,” he added.

Reports reaching the PCG main office bared that the MV Trans Asia Malaysia sank at around 8:50 a.m. Sunday as big waves tossed the vessel off its course four nautical miles off Calabasas Island in Ajuy town, 87 km northeast of Iloilo City.

The ship, operated by Trans-Asia Shipping Lines, Inc., left Cebu at around 6 p.m. Saturday and was expected to arrive in Iloilo at 8 a.m.

But at about 4:55 a.m. Sunday, Ricafrente said, ship captain Romualdo Geraldizo radioed the Coast Guard that the ship was having “difficulties” while they were near Culasi on Panay Island.

Ricafrente said that the PCG immediately deployed its rescue helicopter and two of its vessels – the BRP Edsa and the BRP Corregidor – to Masbate to assist the troubled passenger ship.

But waves, though moderate, continued to pound the ship and caused it to list by 35 degrees on its starboard (right side), Ricafrente said. He said Geraldizo decided to issue a distress signal and abandon-ship order shortly before 6 a.m.

The passengers and crew members were transferred to ships and boats in the vicinity of the vessel which responded to the distress call. These include the MV Filipinas Cebu and MT Fil Visayas.

Ten crew members including the ship captain stayed behind until they transferred to a lifeboat shortly before the boat sank at 8:50 a.m., according to Ricafrente.

Based on their account, Ricafrente said 103 passengers rescued by MT Fil Visayas were taken to Bacolod City, Negros Occidental while 42 survivors were loaded on MV Filipinas Cebu and taken to Iloilo.

The 22 remaining survivors, according to the PCG spokesman, were taken to shore by members of the Bantay-Dagat (sea watchers) on smaller motorized boats.

The ship captain told Coast Guard officials that the vessel listed after taking in water when it was battered by strong and big waves.


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