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September 30, 2008

Hundreds of victims still unidentified three months after Typhoon Frank

Hundreds of victims still unidentified three months after Typhoon Frank

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Typhoon Frank stormed across the Philippine Sea June 21, 2008 capsizing numerous boats, killing hundreds and leaving an estimated 1,330 missing in total including 820 passengers and crew from the MV Princess of the Stars ferry.

A Requiem Mass held for the first 10 DNA-assisted identifications of victims of the Philippines ferry disaster

Since then Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) teams in Cebu City, Philippines made up of experts from the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). and INTERPOL have painstakingly matched DNA from recovered bodies to that of blood samples donated by relatives of those still missing.

Analysis of DNA in ICMP’s Sarajevo lab

“The 23,000-ton vessel was also carrying tens of thousands of pounds of commercial insecticide and many bodies still remain trapped inside the wreckage” according to a recent press release from the ICMP.

“With fingerprint identification out of the question for most of the victims, and dental records not available, this leaves only DNA as a means of identification, with samples from recovered victims matched to those provided by the missing passengers’ relatives.”

An NBI-DVI report explains “DNA matches are made by comparing profiles from victims to a database of profiles from their relatives. A minimum of two close relatives [are] sought for each individual.”

NBI-DVI has so far collected 1,916 blood samples from relatives of missing victims representing 809 missing persons. These samples are then matched against the 318 DNA samples from recovered bodies received by the ICMP.

“Almost three months have passed since our country was struck by one of the worst typhoons in memory, with ‘Frank’ causing the sinking of the Princess of the Stars with hundreds of passengers and crew on board,” said NBI Director Nestor M. Mantaring in the press release.

“The NBI, through its DVI team, was tasked [with identifying] the victims of this tragedy. With help from INTERPOL and the ICMP, we have reached the 100th DNA-matched result which led to the identification and release of the bodies to their respective families.

“We are committed to doing this until the last possible victim is identified and returned to their family,” he concluded.



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July 14, 2008

Sulpicio names companies hired for \’Princess of the Stars\’ salvage

Sulpicio names companies hired for ‘Princess of the Stars’ salvage

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Sulpicio Lines has named the companies hired to conduct salvage operations for MV Princess of the Stars, the Philippines ferry that sank on June 21 during Typhoon Fengshen, leaving over 800 passengers dead.

The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) had already set a deadline of this Tuesday to name the contractor who would recover the ship. Another important aspect is the separate recovery of chemicals on board, primarily the fuel and a 10-tonne shipment of the dangerous pesticide endosulfan by Del Monte.

The ship had also been carrying a number of other chemicals in smaller quantities, including metamedopus, carbofuran, niclosemide, and proptineb. All of the chemicals must be removed by order of the DOTC before the vessel is recovered. The chemical recovery is to be performed by Titan Salvage, an international firm owned by Florida’s Crowley Maritime Corporation and specialising in sunken and capsized ship recovery. Titan will co-operate with both Sulpicio and the DOTC, and expect the project to be completed within 60 days of the contract being signed.

Once the chemicals on board are removed then the ship itself can be recovered. Sulpicio has also named its contractor for this: Malayan Towage and Salvage Corporation (Salvtug). Salvtug has accepted the contract, but warned that its estimated operation cost is PHP2.25 billion to P4.5 billion, which is roughly equivalent to US$50 million to $100 million. Sulpicio had previously estimated that this exercise would cost P600 million.

The high cost is a potential problem as it is unclear who will pay. Sulpicio’s insurance does not cover salvage. Had Sulpicio been covered with protection and indemnity (P&I) insurance this would have been covered, but this is not required in the Philippines and so Sulpicio’s insurance agreement with Oriental Assurance Corporation only covered the hull, machinery and third-party injuries and damage.

It is likely that Sulpicio will pay for the recovery of the ferry, which has a gross weight of 23,824 tons, but as the ship poses a potential environmental hazard it has been suggested that the government should pay the costs initially to ensure work is done quickly, with Sulpicio to be charged later for this. However, for now it is unclear who will pay for the vessel’s recovery.



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July 7, 2008

Sulpicio Lines asks court to stop BMI investigation into \’Princess of the Stars\’ disaster

Sulpicio Lines asks court to stop BMI investigation into ‘Princess of the Stars’ disaster

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Monday, July 7, 2008

The Philippine shipping company Sulpicio Lines has asked a court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) from proceeding with its investigation into the loss of MV Princess of the Stars. The passenger ferry capsised and sank off Sibuyan island on June 21 during Typhoon Fengshen (known locally as Typhhon Frank) with hundreds of casualties.

Sulpicio told the Manila Regional Trial Court that both Republic Act 9295 and the Domestic Shipping Development Act of 2004 removed the BMI’s power to investigate maritime incidents and that the investigation the board launched on June 25 is “irregular, illegal, and null and void”. They say only the Maritime Industry Authority is allowed to investigate accidents at sea.

Sulpicio also described the investigation as an ‘inquisition’ that was biased against Sulpicio from the start. They say “prejudgment” has increased the “pervasive negative publicity” surrounding the line, since negative accusations are most often published in newspapers. The company says one comment the board made was “Your vessel is not stable!” “You have no business being a safety officer!”

As a result Sulpicio is seeking ₱650,000 from the BMI. This is split down as ₱500,000 in moral damages, ₱100,000 lawyer’s fees and ₱50,000 further costs.

The House Committee on Transportation also launched its own inquiry into the disaster today. The case for the TRO will be heard tomorrow.



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June 27, 2008

Divers safe from pesticide from MV Princess of the Stars

Divers safe from pesticide from MV Princess of the Stars

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Divers from the Philippine Coast Guard and Navy were given a clean bill of health from any effects from the toxic waters surrounding the sunken passenger ferry, MV Princess of the Stars off the coast of Romblon province.

Fifty six diving personnel tasked to retrieve bodies of passengers trapped inside the ferry will undergo more tests on Saturday for any ill effects from pesticides that are suspected to have leaked in the cargo hold of the ferry.

Retrieval operations for the bodies of passengers were suspended on Friday when the cargo manifest of the ship showed large quantities of a highly toxic pesticide called endosulfan.

Authorities feared that the pesticides could have contaminated the waters around the sunken ferry and could prove fatal to the diving crew.

Divers started to complain on Thursday of experiencing skin irritation after surfacing.

The Philippines government slammed the ferry’s owners for not immediately divulging the contents of the ferry’s cargo hold and threatened to add other possible criminal charges against the owners.

Environment officials are concerned that the pesticide could cause a severe damage to the delicate aquatic environment around Romblon province.



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June 26, 2008

Bodies of victims of Typhoon Fengshen appear on Philippine shores

Bodies of victims of Typhoon Fengshen appear on Philippine shores

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

As the National Disaster Coordinating Agency continues to evaluate the reports coming from regions all over the Philippines, bodies of those who drowned or perished while at sea have started to float into the shores of islands in Central Philippines. On Thursday, the Philippines Coast Guard reported that villagers recovered 124 bodies whose identities are still uncertain.

Advanced decomposition has made identification difficult for authorities and, fearing a health epidemic, all of the bodies were immediately buried in makeshift graves.

The identification of the victims has caused a stir among relatives looking for their missing family members, as forensic investigators were rendered helpless in proceeding to the scattered locations where bodies have been washing ashore.

Over 100 divers from the combined Philippines and United States naval forces have been working overtime to retrieve the bodies of passengers trapped inside the capsized MV Princess of the Stars.

Disaster management officials in the country announced that the dead from the weekend battering from Typhoon Fengshen could reach to a high of 1,300 people nation-wide. State officials reported that some 2.4 million Filipinos were affected by the disaster, putting property damage at a conservative estimate of $125 million.

Relatives of missing passengers were finally brought near the site where the ferry capsized. On board a tug boat, relatives became severely emotional after a Roman Catholic mass was celebrated to commemorate the memory of those lost at sea.

Related news

  • “Bodies retrieved from Philippine ferry capsized in typhoon” — Wikinews, June 24, 2008
  • “Over 700 feared dead after ferry hit by typhoon” — Wikinews, June 22, 2008



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Obama offers sympathies to Fengshen victims

Obama offers sympathies to Fengshen victims

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama

The presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee and Illinois state senator Barack Obama conveyed his sympathies and condolonces to the people of the Philippines through President Gloria Arroyo, after the country was struck over the weekend by Typhoon Fengshen.

Obama also extended his regrets for not being able to meet Mrs. Arroyo who is on a 10-day official visit in the United States and met up with President George W. Bush at the White House.

The senator from Illinois stressed the strong bond between the Philippines and the United States, taking note of the two countries partnership during the Cold War era and during the Second World War. Obama also pointed out that the Philippines is also an important ally in the on-going war on terror.

He also expressed his desire on meeting Arroyo in the future and working closely with the people of the Philippines.

He also urged the Bush administration to provide more aid to the Philippines in the wake of the retrieval of victims of Typhoon Fengshen who drowned or were lost at sea.

Obama urged the “US government to provide emergency support to alleviate the suffering caused by the catastrophic natural disaster.”

Typhoon Fengshen lashed through the islands of the Philippines last June 21 to 22 causing mud floods, landslides and the capsizing of a passenger ferry, the MV Priness of the Stars, killing more than 700 passengers on board off the coast of Romblon island.

The National Disaster Coordinating Agency of the Philippines reported that five days after the ferry tragedy, only 48 passengers survived and rescuers were able to retrieve 67 bodies.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza also reported that 138 fishing vessels were reported missing as a result of Typhoon Fengshen.

A cargo vessel, the MV Lake Paoay carrying 5,000 metric tons of coal from the mines in Semirara island was also lost off the coast of Iloilo province.

Marine inquiry begins

The Board of Marine Inquiry of the Philippines was convened Wednesday on the possible criminal and civil liability of the owners of the passenger ferry MV Princess of the Stars.

Rear Admiral Ramon Liwag ordered the management of Sulpicio Lines to submit several documents such as certificates of conveniences, permits to depart port, navigational manuals and other important papers by June 27.

Liwag was also hopeful that the ferry’s captain, Florencio Marimon, Sr. survived the mishap and shed light on what really happened.

During Wednesday’s inquiry, Sulpicio Executive Vice-President Edgar Go assured the panel that the ferry was in top condition.

Liwag questioned Go as to how the ferry was cleared to sail Friday night when Typhoon Fengshen was plotted by the weather bureau to strike the area Cebu province were the ferry was destined.

The inquiry told Sulpicio Lines that as of June 2007, the Philippine Coast Guard was mandated under a Memorandum Circular stating, “restricting movements during bad weather, vessels of any size are banned from travel when public storm signal 3 and 4 are raised within the point of origin, route and destination.”

The representative of Sulpicio Lines denied any knowledge of such a circular.

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June 24, 2008

Bodies retrieved from Philippine ferry capsized in typhoon

Bodies retrieved from Philippine ferry capsized in typhoon

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Map showing San Fernando within the province of Romblon.

Divers from the combined teams of the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard were able to penetrate the interior of the submerged sections of the MV Princess of the Stars.

Spokesman for the Navy confirmed fears that there were several passengers of the ill-fated passenger ferry who were trapped when the ferry listed and over turned at around noon of June 22.

Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo of the Navy said that there could have been survivors initially, passengers who were trapped within a pocket of air but the rescue team were only able to reach and enter the ferry, almost three days since it capsized.

The length of time for any survivor trapped inside the capsized ship to have breathable air would be limited.

Four bodies were retrieved and the team with the help of specialists and salvage teams from the USNS Stockham of the United States Navy, supported by the resources of the US carrier group USS Ronald Reagan will return on Wednesday morning to attempt to stabilize the ship and retrieve more bodies.

Philippine authorities are concerned that boring a hole or disturbing the ferry’s present location could cause the ship to slide down into deeper waters or cause an environmental damage to the area due to the fuel the ship carries.

The ferry capsized some 500 meters off the coast of the town of San Fernando in Romblon province.



Related news

  • “Over 700 feared dead after ferry hit by typhoon” — Wikinews, June 22, 2008

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June 22, 2008

Over 700 feared dead after ferry hit by typhoon

Over 700 feared dead after ferry hit by typhoon

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Typhoon Fengshen

It is feared that over 700 people have died after a ferry in the Philippines capsized after being hit by Typhoon Fengshen. So far, 38 people from the ferry have been found alive. Some people were washed onto the shore. One of the survivors, Reynato Lanoria, a janitor on the ferry, said that about 100 people jumped into the ocean.

The ferry left Manila en route to Cebu on Friday, and according to the owners, Sulpicio Lines, contact was lost at about 12:30 local time Saturday.

A rescue ship was sent to rescue the survivors, although this only happened 24 hours after contact was lost with the boat.

One of the survivors described the incident. “There were many of us who jumped overboard, but we were separated because of the big waves,” he said.

He continued, “The others were also able to board the life rafts, but it was useless because the strong winds flipped them over.”


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