21 killed in ferry sinking
- Cet Dematera () - May 14, 2006 - 12:00am
LEGAZPI CITY — Twenty-one bodies have been recovered so far after a small outrigger ferry sailing from Masbate sank in rough waters caused by winds spawned by Typhoon "Caloy" which continued to lash the country yesterday, the Coast Guard reported.

More than 10,000 passengers were also stranded as air and ferry services were suspended.

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Coyme said 18 other passengers of the motorboat Mae An had been rescued since Friday, when it capsized off Masbate after ignoring a general warning from authorities stopping all small vessels from sailing as the storm approached the region.

This developed as President Arroyo directed the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) to coordinate rescue and relief efforts with local government units badly hit by the typhoon.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo also ordered the Cabinet and government agencies to step up relief measures.

The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) said 633 families have been evacuated from Southern Tagalog, the Bicol Region and Eastern Visayas as the storm unleashed its fury since Friday.

The OCD confirmed that most of the fatalities in the storm came from the sinking of Mae An off Barangay Kinamaligan in Masbate.

Coast Guard officials, on the other hand, said they were still uncertain whether the five people earlier reported missing were among those who drowned and were recovered.

The motorized outrigger left at dawn to evade authorities, and left no list of its passengers headed for Sorsogon, Coyme said.

The OCD in Bicol identified seven of the fatalities as Dodong Alburo, Chaway Alburo, Jenny Tagayom, Jenelyn Tagayom, Elpidio Quilong-Quilong, Divine Quilong-Quilong and Selsa Fajardo.

According to Captain Luis Tuazon Jr., commander of the Coast Guard Bicol region, Mae An ignored the storm warning.

Tuazon claimed some of the passengers themselves prodded the Mae An crew to set sail despite worsening weather conditions.

Coyme, for his part, stressed similar tragedies occur because of the stubborn attitude of some vessel owners and seafarers in defying storm warnings.

Coyme added the Coast Guard has also located a missing ferry with over 700 passengers after hours of searching rough seas.

Two tugboats have been dispatched to help the Filipinas Princess, which was reported missing at the height of the storm Friday night but was found anchored off a cove in Mindoro.

"The vessel took shelter in a cove because of high winds and waves. We are in contact with them and tugboats have been sent to rescue them," Coyme said.

The Coast Guard also reported that an oil tanker went aground in Oriental Mindoro yesterday.

Initial reports said the tanker Malitam, laden with 1.5 million liters of bunker fuel, ran aground off the coast of Pinamalayan, Mindoro Oriental after it was buffeted by huge waves.

The Coast Guard said all 13 of its crewmembers were rescued.

A team of Marine Environmental Protection Unit (MEPU) of the Coast Guard was sent to the area to assess the possible damage of an oil spill.

Elsewhere, a couple were electrocuted Friday when a swaying coconut tree severed an electric line in Manapla town on Negros Occidental.

The OCD-Bicol also listed one fatality identified as 14-year-old Vina Armedes who was pinned to death by a coconut tree.

Three people were also confirmed dead in Batangas and Quezon provinces.

The Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC) identified the fatalities as Annaliza Villadelrey, of Nasugbu, Batangas; Nieves Castillo, of Lobo, Batangas; and Joel Magnaye of Sitio Pook, Tiaong, Quezon.

Provincial officials said 16 people remained missing since Friday at the onslaught of the storm.

Initial reports reaching the NDCC in Manila said at least 11 persons were reported missing in the Visayas, Bicol and Southern Tagalog regions.

Among those identified as missing were Cristitoto Bravat, Rogelio Advincula, Diosdado Organo, Darwin Holando and Joven Diola, all fishermen.

Bravat’s fishing boat named Mark Chris capsized in the rough waters off Toboso, Negros Occidental.

Advincula, Organo, Holando, Diola, were reported missing since Friday after sailing in rough waters off Southern Tagalog.

In Northern Samar, a certain Ronnie Tendero was reportedly carried away by a flashflood that hit Barangay Little Venice, Laoang, Northern Samar.

Nearly 10,000 passengers remained stranded yesterday as air and ferry services remain suspended.

Also Friday, the empty ferry MV Northern Samar sank after it was buffeted by waves while it was moored at a port in Tabaco City in Albay.

Landslides and floods also isolated at least 12 villages in Sogod town in Southern Leyte, affecting about 6,000 residents.

In February, a mountainside collapsed in the province’s Saint Bernard town, burying the entire village of Guinsaugon and killing more than 1,000 people.

The storm ripped tarpaulin billboards off their steel frames along several roads in Metro Manila where winds toppled several trees but caused no major damage.

Several communities in the metropolis also suffered intermittent power outages.

Even tourists were not spared by the onslaught of the storm.

Thousands of passengers, mostly tourists and foreigners from the island resort of Boracay, became stranded as the storm hit the Visayas region.

Telephone services were also affected by the storm making communication very difficult for those with no cellular phones.

The Coast Guard officials in Caticlan, Aklan said all motorboats and other sea vessels were barred from sailing due to strong winds and waves.

Sea vessels were still prohibited from sailing to Boracay making it impossible for the local and foreign tourists to return to Caticlan and travel to the airport in nearby Kalibo.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) weather bureau reported that "Caloy" (international code name Chanchu) had gained strength and developed into a typhoon as of 5 p.m. yesterday

Pagasa said Caloy is slowly moving west toward Hong Kong but will continue to cause bad weather for another day or so.

The center of the storm was placed at 10 kilometers west of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, or 150 kilometers southwest of Metro Manila, packing maximum sustained center winds of 110 kilometers per hour, with gusts of up to 140 kilometers per hour.

Caloy is expected to be 210 kilometers west southwest of Metro Manila at 190 kilometers southwest of Iba, Zambales today.

Public storm signal No. 2 remains raised in Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, Lubang Island, Batangas, Cavite, Bataan and the Calamian Group of Islands. Meanwhile public storm signal No. 1 was declared over Laguna, Rizal, Bataan, Zambales, Bulacan, Tarlac, Metro Manila and Palawan.

The rest of the country will experience fair weather.

Residents along coastal areas are advised to seek higher grounds due to big waves generated by the storm. — With Aurea Calica, Jaime Laude, Evelyn Macairan, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Nestor Etolle, Antonieta Lopez, Sandy Araneta, James Mananghaya, Arnell Ozaeta, AP, AFP

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