22 stranded in New Year’s Eve picnic rescued

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/01 January) – Twenty-two persons who went on a picnic at the Greater Sta. Cruz Island but were stranded due to inclement weather were rescued late evening Wednesday, just in time for them to go home and welcome 2015 with their families.

Dr. Elmeir Jade Apolinario, head of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO), said the 22 persons — employees of a local restaurant — were rescued by the Zamboanga Coast Guard Station (ZCGS) personnel around 10:39 p.m. Wednesday.

Apolinario said the group was stranded after the motorized banca operators they hired did not return to the island to fetch them and bring them back to the mainland due to rough seas.

He said the group hired and boarded motorized bancas Wednesday morning at a beach in Barangay Lower Calarian, for Greater Sta. Cruz island.

The ZCGS did not know a group was stranded until about 8 p.m.

Apolinario said they were surprised to know that there was a group of 22 who went to the island earlier that day since they had no record of visitors that day.

He said even Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar was worried because “we do not know who are these people.”

The group did not register with the City Tourism Office.

He explained the city government requires any individual – local or foreign — who wishes to go on a picnic at the Greater Sta. Cruz Island to register with the City Tourism Office and City Tourism Police for proper monitoring of visitors.

Apolinario said he instructed the rescuers to register the incident in the police blotter and to reprimand the group for “endangering the lives of people” by traveling to the island without proper coordination.

“They have not only endangered their lives but also of our responders,” Apolinario said.

He said it is risky to travel at night from and to the island due to strong sea currents. (MindaNews)