Sharks mangled crewmen of sunken ship off Palawan--survivors
Search for survivors
Cebu Daily News
Last updated 02:17pm (Mla time) 10/03/2007
CEBU CITY, Philippines - Four survivors of an ill-fated cargo ship from Cebu that sank off Palawan are still in shock.
They could still hear their co-workers shouting for help while being eaten alive by sharks, a police official in Palawan said.
“Sabi nung mga survivors narinig pa nilang sumisigaw yung iba habang humihingi ng tulong. Nakita daw nila na kinakain na ng mga pating yung mga kasamahan nila. Pero wala silang magawa (The survivors said they heard the others screaming while asking for help. They said they saw their fellow seamen being eaten by the sharks but there was nothing they could do),” said Senior Superintendent Dennis Peña, Palawan police director.
The four were identified as chief mate Roulette Sapallida, seaman Rey Cabuhay, oiler Marlon Tiguman and apprentice Richard Abrigona, who were rescued by passing fishing boat Alister.
The survivors are now confined at the Cuyo District Hospital in Cuyo town, Palawan.
Because of this account of the survivors, Peña said most of the 14 missing crew members of M/V Mia of JPS Shipping Lines in Cebu could already be dead.
But, he added, they have not given up hope.
Divers and rescue swimmers of the Philippine Coast Guard continued their search in the hope of finding more survivors.
The Maritime Industry Authority in Central Visayas (Marina-7) has started its investigation into the sinking of the cargo vessel about 28 nautical miles southwest off Cagayancillo, Palawan.
Mardon Martin, Marina-7 safety engineer, said the probe would determine if the shipping corporation could be liable for the incident or there was negligence on the part of the crew members.
The M/V Mia, loaded with 880 metric tons of cement, left San Fernando town in southern Cebu about 5 a.m. of September 27. It was expected to arrive in Brooke's Point, Palawan on September 29.
Based on the marine protest filed by JPS general manager Gallagher Gallarde to Marina-7, the vessel sank about 11 p.m. on September 28.
Report from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Manila, however, said M/V Mia went under about 4 p.m. on September 29 reportedly due to bad weather.
But according to the Palawan police, the vessel overturned after the enormous waves spawned by typhoon Hanna damaged its body while it was crossing the sea off Cagayancillo about 2:40 p.m. on Sunday.
The vessel tilted to its side and the overturned, the report from the Palawan police said.
According to Gallarde in his marine protest, the JPS shipping personnel received a radio message from the M/V Mia crew members about 1 p.m. on September 28 that the cargo vessel was already 20 miles off Tubbataha Reef, off Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
The crew members also told the shipping lines that their estimated time of arrival in Brooke's Point would be delayed by seven hours — from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. on September 29 — due to rough seas.
“This was the last radio communication from the crew of M/V Mia; hence, there was neither radio contact nor cellular phone communication from September 29, 30 and October 1 except from the fishing boat Alister at 8:10 a.m. on October 1,” according to the marine protest.
Gallarde said in the marine protest that representatives from the fishing boat informed JPS Shipping through radio on October 1 that they were able to rescue four of the 18 crew members.
The fishing boat happened to pass by and saw what happened.
The crew men of F/B Allister daringly plucked the four survivors from the rough seas, according to Peña of the Palawan police.
Peña said the Palawan police were also conducting an investigation to check into the possibility that the sunken cargo ship might be overloaded.
The sinking of M/V Mia was the second sea tragedy in Palawan in September.
Martin of Marina-7 said the Philippine Coast Guard would convene the Special Board of Marine Inquiry to look into the cause of the sinking.
Marina would also check if the vessel was seaworthy when it sailed to Brooke's Point, he added.
Martin said they would also verify if the vessel had proper life-saving equipment on board such as life-jackets and that all crew members had the proper papers.
To determine these, he said Marina officials would interview the survivors.
But Martin said there was no reason to ground the two other vessels of JPS Shipping Corp.
“If there are administrative lapses, we can impose a fine or suspend the certificate of public convenience of the shipping company”, he said.
In the meantime, the Coast Guard continues its search for missing crewmen.
Lieutenant Armand Balilo, PCG spokesperson, said the rescue team's operations were hampered by the incessant rains brought about by tropical storm “Ineng.”
“But rest assured that our search and rescue operations will not cease until we find the missing persons,” he said. /Correspondent Jhunnex Napallacan and Inquirer
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