Insufficient manpower and the lack of proper equipment impede the retrieval of bodies from passenger ship MV St. Thomas Aquinas which sank on August 16 after it collided with a cargo vessel, a Navy official said.
Lt. Cmdr. Noel Escalona, operations officer of Naval Forces Central, on Sunday admitted that retrieval operations are getting difficult. So far, the number of casualties remained at 80, while 40 passengers are still missing.
“Based on the feedback of the divers, floating debris like bags, luggage, and mattress foams hampered their operation and [they]had to be very careful to avoid any untoward incident,” Escalona said.
The divers also lack the necessary type of oxygen that would enable the divers to stay underwater longer. The officer added that the divers consume 10 tanks of oxygen, which are provided by the provincial management council.
“If somebody would donate more oxygen—the expensive type of [nitro]oxygen which the Navy cannot afford—the divers could last longer underwater,” he said.
Escalona appealed for more qualified technical divers who could dive to 160 feet.
The divers, he said, are in the process of clearing the ship’s navigation and passenger decks and the tourists’ economy cabin, but have yet to survey the engine rooms.
MV St. Thomas Aquinas sank after it collided with MV Sulpicio Express Siete while both ships were navigating the narrow strait in Talisay City, Cebu.