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Coast Guard: Area where RORO sank too deep for divers to look for bodies

June 15, 2013 4:50pm

Rescue crew offload survivors of RORO sinking
Rescue crew offload survivors of RORO sinking. As a crowd looks on, Bantay Dagat rescuers offload survivors from the MV Lady of Carmel interisland RORO ship that sank about 14 kilometers off the town of Aroroy, Masbate. Joselito Ramos
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said it is not keen on bringing in technical divers to search for at least seven people still missing from the sinking of a roll-on-roll-off (RORO) vessel off Masbate last Friday.
In an interview over radio dzBB on Saturday, Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo said, "Ang information sa akin, hindi ina-advise magkaroon ng diving operations kasi masyadong malalim. Wala kaming information kung gusto nila mag-dive ganoon kalalim at 300 meters."

The world record for deepest scuba dive is 330 meters, by Frenchman Pascale Bernabé.

On Friday, the RORO vessel MV Lady of Mount Carmel sank off Masbate amid good weather. At least two passengers were killed while seven remain missing.

Balilo expressed hopes that the seven missing passengers were washed ashore to nearby areas.
He said the Coast Guard had appealed to residents in nearby areas to be on the lookout for survivors.
"Ganoon ang hope natin, by this time, may lugar na mapadpad sila," he said.

Search and rescue
Balilo maintained that as of Saturday afternoon, search operations are still considered "search and rescue" and not "search and retrieval."
"Hindi pa tigil ang search and rescue, masyado pang maaga para sa search and retrieval," he said.
Meanwhile, Balilo reminded ship operators to make sure passengers are familiar with the exit points and locations of life jackets.
He said this will come in handy in emergencies like Friday's sinking.
"Dapat alam ng pasahero kung saan ang life jackets at exit points," he said.

Six more rescued

Meanwhile, according to a report of the Agence France-Presse, six more people were hauled out of the sea after a ferry sank in the Philippines with dozens onboard, officials said Saturday, as Navy divers were called in to hunt for survivors.

"Navy divers plan to search underwater to find the ship and check whether there were passengers trapped inside," regional navy spokesman Ensign John Duruin told reporters.

The Coast Guard and local fishermen were also assisting with rescue efforts, he added.

The vessel sank early Friday near the end of its regular four-hour run between the port of Pio Duran and Masbate island in the central Philippines.

Six more people had been rescued, raising the number of survivors to 61, according to the civil defence office in the regional capital Legazpi city.

Officials did not offer any information on the condition of the six or how they were rescued.

Duruin said only three of the 61 survivors were still in hospital.

Meanwhile, officials said they now believe there were 70 people aboard the vessel when it tipped over -- more than the 57 listed in the vessel's manifest.

The cause of the sinking is under investigation, Duruin said.

Press reports suggested the ferry tipped over when one of the vehicles in its hold broke loose from its restraint and caused an imbalance.

Meanwhile, another ferry with more than 360 passengers on board hit a submerged rock that punctured its hull before dawn Saturday, causing the engine to flood, the Coast Guard said.

However, the Gregory the Great was able to reach the nearby central port of Iloilo without further incident, a coastguard statement said.

The country's sea transport industry is notoriously disaster-prone, with sea accidents common due to poor safety standards.

The world's deadliest peacetime maritime disaster occurred near Manila in 1987 when a ferry laden with Christmas holidaymakers collided with a small oil tanker, killing more than 4,300 people. – with a report from Agence France-Presse, VVP, GMA News
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