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(UPDATE) 85 remain missing from ship collision

TALISAY, Philippines (Xinhua) - The search operation resumed this morning as 85 were still missing following a two-ship collision in Cebu, a local official said.

The death toll of the mishap rose to 34 after two bodies were retrieved Sunday morning. A total of 751 people on board the ill-fated ferry M/V St. Thomas Aquinas have been rescued so far, Hilario Davide III, governor of Cebu province, told a news briefing in Talisay city.

Rescue operation, which halted Saturday evening due to high waves, resumed at 8 a.m. today. "Hopefully more missing can be found alive," Davide said.

The M/V Sulpicio Express 7 cargo vessel bound for Davao City collided with the passenger vessel bound for Cebu from Butuan off the coast of Talisay in Cebu Friday night. Both ships has 870 passengers and crew.

Three helicopters dispatched by the coast guard and navy were hovering over the coastline to search for the survivors. Divers sent from Manila have arrived to assist the rescue operations.

Commodore William Melad, Philippine Coast Guard commander in Central Visayas, said technical divers had gone into the sunken passenger ship to search for the missing inside. But oil leak at the scene of the incident hampered the searching effort, and even posed threat to the divers.

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Emmanuel Crucio, a mentor of the marine institute attached to Cebu University, said that the pace of rescue operation was slow due to poor equipment though the divers were professional.

 

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