Rescue operations resume today
Technical divers will join the search for the 58 missing passengers of the MV St. Thomas Aquinas that sank in the waters off Lawis Ledge in Talisay City last Friday evening.
“Regular divers can only stay for ten minutes under the water,” said Philippine Coast Guard Station Commander Weniel Azcuna.
The search operation would take divers to the passenger vessel which sank 100 to 120 feet underwater.
They will be joined by volunteer divers of Malapascua Island who helped in last year’s search for remains of the late Interior and Local Governments secretary Jesse Robredo whose plane crashed off Masbate province.
“We will maximize tomorrow (Sunday) with the rescue operation,” he added.
One Supercat vessel will be deployed to aid Navy personnel along with helicopters from Manila.
The strong current along Lawis Ledge and the depth where the passenger vessel sank made it difficult for rescue operations to continue, forcing officials to suspend operations at 2 p.m. yesterday.
Dive volunteers of Boyla Dive Shop in Lapu-Lapu City came to the command center but were not allowed to join the rescue operations due to the strong current.
Only surface sweeping was continued to retrieve items of possible survivors, Azcuna said.
The command center in Talisay is about three kilometers from where the sunken ship, MV St. Thomas Aquinas, settled at the bottom of the sea.
Before their rescue dive at 9 a.m., Coast Guard and Navy divers on board a tug boat circled the area where the passenger vessel sank to assess the depth to the sunken ferry. The cargo vessel remained afloat in the area.
Dr. Expedito Medalla, Health Emergency Management Staff (HEMS) coordinator of the Department of Health, asked divers to bring with them cadaver bags in case they spotted the remains of the passengers.
The divers previously retrieved at least three bodies.
At 10:20 a.m. the rescue team had the cargo vessel towed to its docking area in pier 5 to clear the site around the sunken ship of any obstructions.
Talisay City Mayor Johnny delos Reyes said the Talisay City government provided meals and even fuel to the workers at the command center. With Correspondents Carine M. Asutilla and Gabriel Bonjoc
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