AT least 28 people were confirmed dead and more than 200 people are missing after a collision between a passenger ferry and a cargo vessel in Cebu province Friday night, government disaster reports said on Saturday.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas and a cargo ship M/V Sulpicio Express collided near a port in Lawis Ledge, Talisay City.
The council said the Thomas Aquinas was carrying more than 800 passengers and only 668 have been rescued. The NDRRMC and the Philippine Coast Guard were still searching for the 274 missing passengers.
Commander Elmer Base, chief of Navy’s Central Command base operations center in Cebu, told reporters in a phone patch interview on Saturday two helicopters are involved in the search.
“We have two UH-1H [Huey] coming to conduct aerial recon, area sweep by air and we still also conducting maritime sweep. Our air assets are to check if there are to check if there are survivors or casualties swept in nearby shorelines,” Base said.
He said 12 Navy divers from Palawan were on their way to Cebu to join the search and rescue efforts. The divers were aboard a C-130 cargo plane of the Philippine Air Force and are expected to arrive in Cebu by noon.
“So we expect before lunch that they will be back here to assist the 12 divers of the Navy Special Operations Unit,” Base said.
The NDRRMC said the St. Thomas Aquinas is owned and operated by Cebu based shipping firm, 2GO Shipping Lines, while the cargo vessel is owned by Sulpicio Lines. ANTHONY VARGAS