Al Jacinto, Special to Arab News
Tuesday 23 December 2003
Last Update 23 December 2003 12:00 am
ZAMBOANGA CITY, 23 December 2003 — No trace have been found of a ferry carrying 74 people, a day after it radioed that it was taking on water and sinking, the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard said yesterday.
Rescue vessels battled huge waves and heavy rain in a vain search for the boat ML Piary, which sent a distress signal at around 3.45 p.m. on Sunday, said Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Armand Balilo.
He said the 63-ton Piary left Mapun in Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi, a cluster of islets in the Sulu Sea, on Saturday and was bound for Brookes Point in Palawan, 710 kilometers (440 miles) southwest of Manila, the coast guard said. The trip usually takes a day.
Balilo said the Piary’s crew radioed that strong waves smashed a hole in the vessel’s wooden bow and was taking on water near Bugsuk Island, about 60 nautical miles off mainland Palawan.
“We still don’t know what happened to the boat and the passengers, but we are doing our best to locate them,” the spokesman told Arab News.
The boat owned by trader Mohd Hussin of Mapun town was carrying 69 passengers, including seven children aged 1 to 10, and six crew members, officials said.
The coast guard said the nearest coast of the ferry’s last reported position was 60 kilometers (38 miles) west, on Bugsuk island.
A press statement by the navy said Piary’s passengers and crew had been preparing to abandon the ship and board a life raft as the crew sent distress signals.
Also yesterday, air force spokesman Maj. Restituto Padilla said the force had received sketchy reports that another vessel had capsized in the Pacific Ocean about 335 kilometers (210 miles) east of the northern province of Isabela.
He said it was not clear what type of vessel was involved, where it was headed and when it capsized.
The area was “too far for our helicopters” to reach, he said.
On Friday, a passenger ship carrying at least 275 people ran aground on a coral bed off Nasipit town in the southern province of Agusan.
Earlier this month, a ferry that had been reported missing in the southern Philippines was found drifting in waters off Indonesia’s East Kalimantan region. All 57 on board were safe.
Ferries are the chief means of transportation between islands in remote areas in the southern Philippines. Most are poorly maintained and don’t carry much safety gear.