SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews /14 September) — Coast Guard authorities here cannot how many passengers were actually on board the ill-fated ship MV Maharlika which sank off Pintuyan town in Southern Leyte Saturday night, September 13.
Capt. Joseph Coyme, Deputy District Commander for Nothern Mindanao of the Philippines Coast Guard, said that as of 11 a.m. Sunday, three persons had been confirmed dead while 110 were rescued. But the number of missing persons remains undetermined as the manifest showed only 84 on board: 58 passengers and 26 crew members, and 13 rolling cargoes.
The rolling cargoes include one passenger bus operated by Philtranco, 11 trucks (six Forward and five 10-wheelers), and one private vehicle.
The ill-fated ship left Lipata Port in Surigao City at 11:30 a.m. Saturday for Liloan, Southern Leyte, a four-hour travel, supposedly.
Coyme said the ship lost control at around 2 p.m. and went down by 7 p.m. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) in its situation report early Sunday morning said the ferry left Lipata at 7:30 p.m. and the passengers abandoned ship by 9:30 p.m.
The ferry sank off Pintuyan town in Southern Leyte, at 1,000 meter deep, 8 nautical miles from Lipata Port here, or about 1. nautical miles from the port of San Ricardo, Southern Leyte, he said.
He said Juan Cuyago, boat captain of MV Maharlika , declared “abandon ship” at around :30 in the afternoon, and fired a flare at 6 p.m. as a distress call to nearby ships.
Coyme said that when the boat left Lipata port on Saturday noon, the wind was strong and the seas were rough but the Coast Guard and Phlippine Ports Authority allowed it to sail since the storm signal and ship travel advisories for Typhoon Luis did not include Mindanao.
Fourteen survivors are confined at Caraga Regional Hospital in Surigao City.
Coyme said at 11 a.m. that search and rescue operation were continuing in the hope that they could still rescue some passengers.
A Philippine Air Force helicopter took off from the port of Lipata at 9 a.m. to check the area for possible survivors.
Danilo Atienza, officer-in-charge of Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office-Southern Leyte said the helicopter returned 30 minutes later. He said they did not see any survivor or casualty floating off Southern Leyte and the Surigao Strait.
Atienza said some survivors told him there were passengers left in the ferry when it went down.
Atienza said they had asked officials in the coastal areas in Southern Leyte to check their area and help any survivors who might have drifted to their shores.
Five ships – three foreign and two domestic vessels – helped in the rescue operations: the foreign ships MV Orient King 1, MV Lara Venture and MV St. Martin, and the domestic vessels MV Maharlika , a sister ship of Maharlika , which brought in 32 survivors at 11 p.m. Saturday in the port of Lipata; and MV Filipinas Maasin of Cokaliong Shipping Lines. (Roel Catoto / MindaNews)