The Thomas Aquinas ferry, of the Philippines, left with passengers at the Nasipit in the southern province of Afusan del Sur. Shortly after the ship set sail, it collided with a cargo freighter, Sulpicio Express 7, which had 36 crew members aboard. The Thomas Aquinas sank on Friday evening, near the central city of Cebu, approximately 1.2 miles from the shore, leaving 31 people mortally wounded and a further 170 passengers missing. However, the Sulpicio did not sink.
The ferry was carrying 715 passengers and 116 crew members, but only 600 survivors have been reported rescued. There were about 58 babies among the passengers listed, but, once again, it remains unclear as to how many survived.
Rachal Capuno, a spokesperson for the owners of the ferry said that it was a strong impact.
Military vessels and the coastguard helped with the rescue, but their endeavours had been interrupted by the rough sea.
Hundreds of passengers had been given life jackets by the crew members, as they began jumping into the sea, whilst the ferry started to descend into the waters below. The passengers found it very difficult to find their way around in the darkness, a number of which had been asleep at the time of impact.
Jerwin Agudong, a survivor said he and many other passengers jumped overboard, near to the front of the cargo vessel. He claims that a number of the ship’s passengers were unable to escape, and later indicated his sorrow for the children, after having witnessed corpses on the side of the ferry, whilst survivors were being collected by the attending coastguard. Many of the rescued masses fell ill after ingesting seawater and oil, spilt from the wrecked ferry.
The Philippines has a poor record for maritime safety, with scores of people dying in accidents, annually.
Maritime accidents occur frequently in the Philippine’s archipelago, resulting from a host of tropical storms that strike the region, an issue which is further compounded by badly maintained boats and laxed safety regulations, weakly enforced by government authorities.
In Dec. 1987, over four thousand innocent people lost their lives when the Dona Paz ferry slammed into a sizeable tanker; this was one of the world’s worst maritime accidents.
It is said that the death toll will certainly rise, after more bodies were found on Saturday.
“Because of the speed by which it went down, there is a big chance that there are people trapped inside,” said Rear Admiral Luis Tuason.
The 11,000 tonne ferry was certainly showing its age, reaching 40 years service, and was operated by a Chinese-owned company called 2Go, which became the largest ferry operator, almost three years ago. The corporation also have a number of mergers with other, smaller firms.
The official from the coastguard’s public affairs headquarters in Manila, Joy Villages said that it was too early to determine the cause of the collision. The ferry was normally responsible for the transportation of vehicles and was very well known throughout the Philippines.
Written By: Landi Bezuidenhout