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Death toll in Masbate sea mishap hits 42 - official

November 5, 2008 1:07pm

MANILA, Philippines – Two of the 10 missing passengers of the capsized MB Don Dexter Cathlyn were found dead by rescue operatives, bringing the number of fatalities in the sea tragedy off Masbate province to 42.

In a phone interview with GMANews.TV, Masbate Provincial Police chief Senior Superintendent Reuben Sindac said the bodies were recovered about 12 noon. He said the police have yet to identify the two victims.

Sindac added that search and rescue operatives will continue to boost their efforts in looking for the remaining eight missing passengers. 100 passengers survived the incident.

Meanwhile, Office of Civil Defense Region 5 director Raffy Alejandro said authorities may wrap up their rescue efforts Friday – pursuant to the directive of the Health Department (DOH).

"Three days lang binibigay ng DOH na pwedeng [hanapin]. Kung buhay ah, pero kung dead naman na yan, usually lalabas na lang yan sa shoreline (The DOH only gave three days to look for the missing persons. If they are dead, they will float near the shoreline)," Alejandro said.

The MB Don Dexter Cathlyn was battered shortly after leaving port in central Masbate island for nearby Sorsogon province Tuesday.

The ship's manifest listed 119 passengers and a crew of six on board, though ferries frequently carry more people than are officially listed. Sindac said the maximum capacity of the ship was only 100, but it left the port with more than 150 people on board.

The Philippine Coast Guard is currently investigating whether the vessel was indeed overloaded when it left and whether its departure was unauthorized.

Alejandro said the Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) will look into the matter Thursday morning.

Earlier, MB Don Dexter Cathlyn captain Dante Bombales denied the passenger vessel was overloaded and that it left port without clearance.

"Hindi po (overloaded). Yung authorized satin is 100. Yung pasahero is 119. Hindi ho overloaded sir, yung 100 minimum yun," he said in an interview over dzBB radio.

Bombales added they sought permission from local Coast Guard officials, adding that the weather, which he said was sunny when they left, only got turbulent after they left port.

He said he left a copy of the ship's manifest at their office to be submitted to the Coast Guard. - GMANews.TV