(Photo courtesy of ABS-CBN)
With relatives of victims already tired and outraged with the slow pace of recovery operation, the Philippine government and owners of the ferry abandoned plans to bore a hole in the 24,000 -tonne vessel to pull out the bodies and agricultural chemicals threatening marine environment but instead refloat the vessel. Authorities however said that refloating the vessel would take about a month. Will this be a more practical and safest way to do it?
Here is an update:
Princess of the Stars to be refloated
SAN FERNANDO – A Philippine ferry that sank in a typhoon will be refloated, officials said Wednesday, ditching a bid to use divers to retrieve hundreds of bodies and toxic pesticides some 11 days after the disaster.
Amid anger at the slow-moving recovery operation, the government and ferry owners abandoned plans to bore a hole in the 24,000-tonne vessel to pull out the bodies and agricultural chemicals that threaten the marine environment.
A salvage outfit hired to execute the plan, as well as Filipino and US military divers, have left the site off the central island of Sibuyan, Transportation and Communication Undersecretary Elena Bautista said.
“Subsea (the salvage firm) is pulling out because we will refloat the vessel,” Bautista told AFP here.
While tests showed waters have not been contaminated with the endosulfan cargo, there was concern containers could corrode allowing the chemical to leach and contaminate the area.
“The potential danger to marine life is a major factor in the decision,” a coast guard biologist, who asked not to be named, told AFP.
An air force helicopter circled the ship, whose bow is still jutting above the water, on Wednesday and dropped pink, yellow and white flowers in a ceremony to mark the end of the divers’ efforts to recover bodies.
Government officials were now meeting with representatives of ferry company Sulpicio Lines “on how they will go about refloating the boat,” Bautista said, giving no timetable for the operation.
The announcement further extends the recovery bid which has caused anger and frustration among relatives still waiting to confirm loved ones perished in tragedy and to bury their bodies.
Vice President Noli de Castro, who has been supervising the recovery, has said refloating the vessel and retrieving the bodies would take about a month.
Filipino coast guard and navy divers had originally tried to enter the vessel which is resting upside-down on a reef to find the bodies.
But poor visibility and strong currents hampered the start of the operation and then divers found the ship’s passageways blocked by debris.
The operation was suspended Friday with the belated discovery of the illegal cargo of tonnes of endosulfan pesticide which was deemed a health hazard.
The ferry sailed into the the eye of Typhoon Fengshen on June 21, ran aground and was sunk by huge waves as it tried to seek shelter.
Only 57 of the 850 passengers and crew survived, making it one of the country’s worst maritime disasters.