MANILA — Shipping sources said 1,490 people were listed as missing and feared drowned following the fiery collision of a passenger ship and an oil tanker Sunday night. Both vessels sank, officials said.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said at least 26 people were rescued as ships and planes rushed to the site of the accident south of the main Philippine island of Luzon.
The collision between the 2,215-ton MV Dona Paz and the oil tanker MT Victor occurred about 10 p.m. Sunday, said Eusebio Go, general manager of the Sulpicio Lines. It occurred off the island of Marinduque, he said, as the vessel traveled from the island of Leyte to Manila.
Sank to Bottom
Bong Meneses of the Philippine Rescue Coordinating Center said the two vessels, both believed to be Philippine-owned, sank to the bottom of the Sibuyan Sea after the passenger vessel burst into flames.
Most of the survivors were plucked from the water by a passing merchant vessel, he said.
Go said he was uncertain how many people were aboard the passenger vessel but that its capacity was listed as more than 1,400 passengers and an unknown number of crew.
Survivors said the passenger vessel was jammed, with many people traveling to Manila for the Christmas holidays.
It was not immediately clear how many people were aboard the oil tanker, although early reports put the number at seven.
Cmdr. Rene Luspo, spokesman for the Philippine coast guard, said two naval patrol ships and four commercial vessels had been sent to the scene.
"Very likely there was panic, but we are hoping that many would survive because many commercial ships have responded," Luspo said.
Many survivors suffered burns when they jumped into the flaming waters, officials said.
Samuel Carillo, one of the survivors, said he felt "a jerk and an explosion."
"I went up and there were flames all over, and I jumped," he said.
Another survivor, 42-year-old Paquito Osabel, said he was on his way to Manila with his sister and three nieces to spend Christmas with his family.
4 to a Cot
He said the vessel was so crowded that up to four people were sharing individual cots and hundreds of others were sitting on the floor of the three-deck ship.
"I went to a window to see what happened, and I saw the sea in flames," he said. "And I shouted to my companions to get ready, there is fire. The fire spread rapidly and there were flames everywhere.
"People were screaming and jumping. The smoke was terrible. We couldn't see each other and it was dark. I could see flames, but I jumped."
Alodia Bacsal, 18, said panic broke out on the vessel after the collision. "People were screaming and running," she said. "Then all of a sudden there was smoke everywhere." Her father, Salvador, was also rescued but her grandfather and uncle were missing.
Smoke Filled Ship
"I felt a crash," Salvador Bacsal said. "I looked out and there were flames all over. Then I went to look for my daughter who was also shouting for me. Suddenly, smoke filled the ship."
A U.S. Navy spokesman at Subic Bay said an American navy search and rescue team was standing by but added that Filipino authorities had not requested assistance.
In one of the greatest maritime disasters in history, 1,503 people were killed on the night of April 14, 1912, when the British White Star liner Titanic struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage 95 miles south of Newfoundland.
On Aug. 31 of last year, nearly 400 people were reported missing or killed in a collision between two Soviet ships in the Black Sea.
A passenger liner, the 17,053-ton Admiral Nakimov with 1,234 people aboard, collided with the 32,000-ton bulk carrier Pyotr Vasev eight miles off the port of Novorossysk. Officials said 79 bodies were recovered, 836 people were rescued and 319 were never found.