Search for missing ferry passengers widened to the South Sea China — PCG

December 26, 2009 10:36 pm 

MANILA, Dec. 26 — Despite dimming hopes of finding survivors among the missing passengers of the sunken "M/V Catalyn B," the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has said its search and rescue (SAR) operation is continuing and now covers a wider area of the South China Sea.

Lieutenant Commander Armand Balilo, PCG spokesman, said that as of 4 p.m. Saturday, there had been no success in the search for possible survivors of the ferry that sank after colliding with a fishing vessel off Limbones Island in Cavite on Christmas Eve.

According to Balilo, the SAR status remained at three fatalities, 24 missing and 46 survivors. The fatalities were identified as Beverly Cabinillo, 36; Relly Morales, 71; and Welmar Tanayan, 27.

In spite of the lack of success in the search, Balilo said they were still hoping for survivors, adding that there had been previous incidents when victims were only found to have survived a month later.

He recalled that foreign vessels which rescued passengers sometimes brought them to the country of their destination.

“Before, the rescued passengers were brought to another country and we were only informed much later, sometimes after a month,” he said.

Balilo said the search and rescue operation would last for 10 days as part of the standard operating procedure (SOP), reiterating they were not ruling out the possibility that that there were bodies trapped inside the sunken vessel.

He also said that with the strong current in the site of sinking, Balilo said some of the bodies could have been carried away to the South China Sea. He noted that the direction of the flow of water is toward the South China Sea because of the northeasterly winds.

Meanwhile, Commodore Luis Tuason Jr., PCG-National Capital Region-Central Luzon (NCR-CL) district commander, said the SAR operation coverage of PCG’s Islander and the Philippine Navy has already reached a 40-nautical mile radius in the South China Sea.

Two Coast Guard vessels — BRP Pampanga and BRP Nueva Vizcaya — have also scoured waters of up to 30 nautical miles radius.

In coming out with the possibility of the missing victims reaching the South China Sea, the PCG calculated the speed and direction of the current.

“We also considered the rate of the drift to determine how far the bodies or the survivors may have reached,” said Tuason.

The PCG also sought the assistance of American national Matt Caldwell, who holds the rank of captain in the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA). Trained in the United States, diving instructor Caldwell, a licensed deep-sea diver, offered to extend help to the PCG for free.

Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, PCG commandant, said Caldwell could be of great help to find through deep-sea diving the location of the sunken vessel.

“He can help to determine the position and condition of the sunken ship and to further assess the situation,” said the PCG commandant. (PNA) scs/JES

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