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Sunday, June 22, 2008

33 survivors rescued from Philippines ferry - CNN

MANILA, Philippines (CNN) -- Rescuers have found at least 33 survivors and at least six dead among the nearly 750 aboard a ferry that capsized in a typhoon that battered the southern Philippines, a Red Cross official said Monday.

Fishermen found 30 survivors from the ferry Princess of Stars, which rolled over early Sunday morning, said Richard Gordon, the head of the Philippines Red Cross and a member of the country's Senate. One person died after being picked up, and another was lost during rescue efforts, he said, but the remaining 28 have been delivered to police.

And Filipino troops found five more survivors and five dead, Gordon said.

The Princess of Stars carried 749 people.
"There's quite a few people out there that are still missing," he said. "We are trying our best to find them, and I hope we could get some help."

Filipino Coast Guard rescuers knocked on the overturned hull of the capsized ferry Sunday evening, hoping to hear signs of life among the missing passengers, a Red Cross official said.

No sounds were returned, and the Coast Guard wrapped up their rescue mission for the night. Rough seas, spawned by Typhoon Fengshen, prevented divers from swimming under the capsized vessel.

"It's a race against time," said Sen. Richard Gordon, head of the Philippines Red Cross.

The typhoon has killed at least 141 people in the Philippines, he said. Another 255 people are missing as a result of the storm, most of them fishermen.

The massive ferry -- built to hold about 2,000 people -- flipped over about a mile off the shore of Sibuyan Island early Saturday as Typhoon Fengshen pummeled the Philippines.

The MV Princess of Stars began its daylong journey from Manila to Cebu City around 8 p.m. Saturday, when the typhoon was a Category 1 storm with winds up to 95 mph. The storm gained strength and created dangerous conditions during the southern half of the vessel's voyage.

Gordon said the families of the ferry passengers are "very bitter about the situation." They are upset not only that the ferry was cleared to leave during the tumultuous weather conditions, but also about the way Sulpicio Lines, which operates the ferry, has handled the situation.

"People are upset that they were allowed out," Gordon said. "Also, the owners don't have a good record. They've had a lot of accidents in the past, and people are pouncing on them right now."

Gordon said he was able to speak to the ship's janitor.

"He said the seas were so huge, they were like mountains," Gordon said. "The ship's captain ordered everyone to abandon ship at 12:45 a.m. Saturday morning."

The first Coast Guard ship arrived just before 2 p.m. Sunday, and divers immediately began searching for survivors.

33 survivors rescued from Philippines ferry


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