Gov’t needs to reconcile stats regarding details on sinking

Jessa Agua (The Freeman) - August 25, 2013 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - A week and one day after the fateful collision of passenger and cargo vessels, figures on the casualties, missing and unaccounted victims vary from various sources during yesterday's command conference at the office of Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.

Also yesterday, the mayor applauded at the report that oil leak was reduced by 90 percent.

2GO Group which owns sunken passenger ship MV St. Thomas Aquinas yesterday claimed 79 fatalities while Philippine Coast Guard Cebu Station Command reported 80.

Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes has the same tally as 2GO.

As reported by 2GO, a total of 76 bodies were retrieved and three body parts, 53 were positively identified by relatives and authorities.

There are also 25 survivors still staying at a hotel, described by 2GO as still looking for missing loved ones as well as newly released from the hospital.

The shipping company further reported to the mayor a total of 50 missing victims composed of 43 passengers and seven crew members.  Another seven were listed as unaccounted crew and passengers.

2GO management earlier decided to separate missing from unaccounted saying those missing include those mentioned by relatives who approached their office informing them that their loved one was aboard but have not been found.

PCG Cebu Station Commander Weniel Azcuna reported 80 fatalities of the total 870 passengers and crew on board the ill-fated 2GO passenger ship.

Coast guard record also has 750 total rescued and 40 unaccounted victims.

“We are supposed to meet with the governor today but it was postponed to Monday. This is to reconcile conflicting figures,” Azcuna said.

Councilor Mary Ann Delos Santos, tasked by the mayor to monitor survivors admitted in different hospitals reported that from Friday's 14, 12 remain confined at hospitals.

Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes recorded 79 bodies including three body parts and 53 identified by authorities and families. So far, 37 bodies have been shipped back to their respective provinces as well.

Chief Inspector Benjamin Lara from PNP 7 Crime Laboratory said they have processed 76 cadavers plus three body parts.

“We have identified 53 bodies so far by means of primary and secondary identifiers. Also, we have taken DNA specimen from all 79 bodies. Our forensic dentist is already in Cebu now and has taken 79 samples,” Lara said.

A “few” relatives have given dental records to authorities to aid in identifying casualties but forensic dentist reported only two to have so far matched, he added.

“To set expectations right, DNA matching could take long. As long as one year.  As per protocol, we need to prepare duly marked burial for unidentified fatalities,” Lara explained, adding this is to prepare for future exhuming.

Also discussed during Saturday command conference is the adverse opinion of varying experts against the use of human hair boom in containing oil spill.

“Should we stop the mass hair cutting activity and the production of hair boom? We need to establish this properly because the use of hair boom has been done in the past. It's a question of being effective and practical considering the present circumstances,” Rama said.

After asking every attendees of the conference, the mayor decided to continue suspending hair boom pending thorough discussion on the scientific bases supporting and rejecting the natural oil spill boom.

Another good news was delivered by Azcuna as reported by Malayan Towage has so far plugged seven holes, with leak rate decreasing by 20 liters per hour.

“According to the report submitted by Malayan Towage, the joint dive team from Malayan and Nippon Salvage has plugged one hole during the first dive in August 21, three more holes in August 22, and another three August 23,” the station commander relayed.

Moreover, Azcuna said the 2GO-tapped experts reported 90 percent reduction of oil leakage since the first dive, making the mayor clap for joy.

“That is very good news! That's what I want to hear,” Rama exclaimed.

Coast guard added that coastal cleanup on affected areas by the oil spill from the sunken ship continues as well as the retrieval of bodies.  (FREEMAN)

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