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Fastcraft sinks off Quezon
FERRY SINKING – A file photo of the fastcraft MV Mercraft 3, which was carrying 251 people from Real, Quezon, to Polillo Island when it sank in stormy seas Thursday. (Photo provided by the Philippine Coast Guard | Manila Bulletin)
December 22nd, 2017 | 09:35 AM | 1214 views
Four people were killed and 240 passengers rescued after an inter-island fastcraft carrying 251 passengers from Real, Quezon sank in violent waters enroute to Polilio Island yesterday morning.
Captain Armand Balilo, spokesman of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), said the fastcraft “Mercraft 3” departed Ungos Port in Real at 9 a.m. amid good weather and was enroute to Polilo Island when the maritime incident happened.
A survivor, Donel Jade Mendiola, told DZMM radio that the weather was fine when the ferry left port, but strong winds and large waves started to batter it about two hours into the trip.
“The vessel came to a halt and started taking in water in the front side. The passengers dashed to one side and the ferry started to sink,” Mendiola said. He said the passengers were instructed to don life vests.
Balilo said the PCG main headquarters in Manila received the report at 11 a.m. from Coast Guard Station Northern Quezon that the fastcraft sank between Dinahican Point, Infanta and Agta Point, Polilio Island.
By late afternoon, the PCG confirmed that four of the passengers were killed, but their identities were still withheld pending notification of their relatives. Mayor Grace America of Infanta said 11 were still missing as maritime authorities scrambled to rescue them before nightfall.
In a CNN-Philippines interview at 6 p.m., Kagawad Janette Balili of Barangay Dinahican in Infanta said most of the survivors were taken to her village, where temporary kitchen was set up at the barangay hall.
Balili said they were attending to 218 survivors and that apart from their tally in Dinahican, there were 22 more survivors taken to the town of Real. This tally showed that 240 had been rescued and only seven remained missing as of press time last night.
Judith Sierno, one of the survivors, told CNN that the front part of the passenger vessel broke off.
Senior Superintendent Rhoderick Armamento, Quezon Police Provincial Office (PPO) director, confirmed there were only four deaths while Dr. Corazon de los Reyes, chief of the C.M. Recto District Hospital in Infanta, said 11 more were undergoing medical treatment.
De los Reyes identified the 11 as Donna Marasigan, Limuel Marasigan, Ruben Saltura, Vhon Lemuel Marasigan, Hyracel Amande, Marilou Jose Diasanta, Jezriel Azul, Jhan del Azul, Dominador Zapanta, Rhian Valleros Pagao and Relan Balot.
Armamento said there was a joint effort to rescue the passengers with the PCG, the Infanta and Polilio Police Stations, the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils (MDRRMC) of Infanta and General Nakar, and fishing vessels on site.
Armamento said fishing vessel “JJJ” was able to rescue 27 passengers and took them to the Port of Infanta by 2 p.m.
“As per initial information received, said craft has maximum capacity of 286 passengers and 251 were reportedly onboard,” said Balilo.
“Hopefully, the number is correct and there is no excess passengers,” he added.
The search and rescue is still on for the passengers and crew of Mercraft 3 while the cause of the sinking remains unclear, according to Balilo.
“There is a huge possibility that the bad weather affected its sea travel,” Balilo told reporters in an interview.
“After the conduct of search and rescue, we will conduct our investigation and we will find out what really happened,” he said.
The Coast Guard has dispatched its rescue teams from Southern Luzon to Real Quezon.
At the same time, the maritime agency also coordinated with the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Southern Luzon Command for the deployment of its air and maritime assets for the SAR mission.
Responding to the incident, Balilo also said PCG’s multi-role response vessels were about to leave Manila for the conduct of the search and rescue.
“I was told there were already passengers who were rescued and onboard their boats. Some of them were on their way to the Coast Guard station for accounting of passengers,” he said.
“We will continue [the rescue operation] even through the night,” the PCG spokesman said. (With a report from Francis T. Wakefield and AP)
courtesy of MANILA BULLETIN
by Raymund Antonio and Danny Estacio
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