No signs of missing ferry passengersBy Mar Arguelles |Inquirer Southern Luzon
LEGAZPI CITY—Search and rescue (SAR) operations in the waters off Burias Island of Masbate continued on Sunday but with no success in finding the remaining seven missing passengers of the ill-fated MV Lady of Mount Carmel.
Office of Civil Defense (OCD)-Bicol director Bernardo Rafael Alejandro said the SAR teams were directed to continue with the search after Malacañang ordered the OCD on Saturday to focus on finding the missing before determining the cause of the sinking.
Alejandro said SAR operation for missing victims would usually take a 48-hour timeline but with the Palace directive issued on Saturday evening, the SAR would be extended until Monday.
The SAR efforts started on Friday after MV Lady of Mount Carmel, a roll-on-roll-off (Ro-Ro) vessel bound for Aroroy town in Masbate, sank along Burias Pass at 5 a.m. on June 14.
Two female passengers in their 50s drowned in the incident while 61 passengers and crew were rescued. The seven missing passengers were earlier identified by the OCD as Abegail Barredo, 19, and Noan Manocan, 25, both of Mandaon, Masbate; Fe Rapsing, Leticia Andaya, 78, and Jocelyn Danao, all also of Masbate; and Ariane and Jonas Comedor.
“So far, the three-day search was indeed an extensive operation but it ended with no result,” Alejandro said by phone on Sunday.
The SAR teams were composed of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Philippine Navy (PN), Maritime Police and Bantay Dagat (sea watchmen) volunteers from Masbate and Albay provinces.
Alejandro said they suspected that the missing passengers might have been trapped inside the vessel when it sank.
The Ro-Ro ferry—with about 70 passengers and crew and two buses and a six-wheeler truck on board—sailed in good weather bound for Aroroy from the port of Pio Duran, Albay, at 2 a.m. It was scheduled to arrive at 5 a.m. when it sank about an hour earlier in an area along the Burias Pass located some 11 nautical miles from the Aroroy port.
Alejandro said they had yet to determine the exact area where the vessel sank as the water of Burias Pass has a depth of about 700 feet to 1,700 feet.
Three dive experts have joined the search but they could only dive up to 120 feet, Alejandro said.
The municipal environment officer of Aroroy also joined the search but so far no oil spill or any environmental hazard caused by the ship’ s sinking has been noted, Alejandro said.
According to Alejandro, the composite teams from PCG, PN, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and OCD would meet today, Monday, at the OCD office here for an assessment meeting that would determine if they should still proceed with or terminate the SAR.
Alejandro said it was only after the search was terminated that a board of marine inquiry would be convened to determine what caused the sinking of the ship.