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Survivors of SuperFerry tragedy head home

September 7, 2009 2:06pm
Survivors from SuperFerry 9, which sank Sunday morning off Zamboanga Peninsula, started heading for Iloilo, Bacolod and Manila on Monday aboard SuperFerry 1 and 5, according to the ship's owner Aboitiz Transport System (ATS) Corp.

In a 12:15 a.m. advisory posted on the SuperFerry website, ATS said 175 passengers departed on the ATS-owned SuperFerry 1 bound for Iloilo and Manila, while 179 are on SuperFerry 5 en route to Bacolod. The rest of the rescued passengers and crew are in Zamboanga City.

Out of the 964 on board the ship as per the manifest, 944 passengers and crew have been accounted for, according to a partial list posted on the website. The company did not say how many people from the sunken vessel are still missing as of Monday.
Barefooted survivors of Superferry 9, which capsized Sunday morning near Baturampon Point off Sirawai in Zamboanga del Norte, disembark from M/V Ocean Integrity. The rescue vessel ferried them to Zamboanga City Sunday afternoon.
Bong Garcia Jr.

There were conflicting reports on the actual number of people on board the vessel. In its 5 a.m. update, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported that 966 of the 968 people on board the sunken SuperFerry 9 have been accounted for and two people were still missing.

The Coast Guard report identified three of the nine fatalities as two-year-old James Patrick Calero, 23-year old Carina Ampere, and 45-year old Fernando Estrada. Three male and three female victims remain unidentified.

SuperFerry 9 left General Santos City at 8:45 a.m. last Saturday on its way to Iloilo City, according to official reports. The passenger ship tilted for hours before it finally sank in Siocon Bay off the Zamboanga peninsula around mid-morning on Sunday. [See story: SuperFerry sinks off Zamboanga]

Working together

The SuperFerry management has joined forces with government agencies in the rescue and retrieval efforts.

Aside from the Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, at least three other government agencies helped in the rescue operations, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development is assisting the local government in Siocon in providing technical resources and food packs to the survivors.

The Department of Health has mobilized medical teams to attend to the survivors while the Philippine National Red Cross is providing first aid and psychosocial assistance. The Red Cross is also transporting survivors in need of immediate care to nearby hospitals.

SuperFerry management has been providing food, clothes and blankets to the survivors.

Marine board to probe accident

In a report on QTV’s Balitanghali, Cesar Apolinario said that although the Coast Guard is still uncertain of the cause of the tragedy, cargo overloading has been overruled.

He added that after the search and rescue operations are over, the Board of Marine Inquiry will investigate the accident, looking into engine failure and bad weather as the primary causes for the incident.

The Coast Guard said the vessel was carrying 2900,000 liters of oil products when it departed from Manila for Iloilo and General Santos City.

“(But) no dangerous or hazardous cargo was declared to be onboard MV SuperFerry 9," it said.

Coast Guard spokesman Cmdr. Armand Balilo also said that Jose Yap, captain of the SuperFerry 9, will be questioned once the rescue operations are over.
Western Mindanao Department of Health personnel carry one of the SuperFerry 9 survivors from M/V Ocean Integrity upon arrival at the Zamboanga Port on Sunday. Bong Garcia Jr.

No stranger to danger

The fate of SuperFerry 9 is not entirely a surprise, since it had already encountered several mishaps in the past.

Just this May, this same ship was stranded off the coast of Camiguin province for more than 12 hours due to engine problems. (See: SuperFerry ship with 900 passengers stranded off Camiguin)

In February 2007, the ship conked out southwest of Daog Point on Negros Island on the way from Bacolod City to Iligan City in Mindanao, and had to be hauled to shore by another ship. Engine problems were also blamed for the interruption. (See: SuperFerry stalls near Negros)

In April 2006, the vessel was stranded near Masbate, with a cracked engine cylinder head blamed for the engine trouble. After repairs, the replacement cylinder suffered a leak on the same day while crossing Romblon waters. (See: SuperFerry 9 passengers finally arrive at South Harbor)

The series of incidents led the Maritime Industry Authority to revoke the SuperFerry 9’s safety certificate in 2007, ordering the company to keep the ship docked to perform appropriate repairs. (See: SuperFerry 9 operations halted over safety issues)

Other Aboitiz-owned ships faced troubles in recent years.

In early 2007, the Palawan-bound ship Our Lady of Medjugorje suffered a stalled engine and drifted off to the South China Sea before rescue ships could pull it to harbor.

In March 2006, SuperFerry 12 caught fire off Bantayan Island in Cebu. Three people were later arrested for arson. – Melissa de los Santos, GMANews.TV
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