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Philippine Relatives Grieve as Bodies Are Recovered

December 24, 1987|Associated Press

MANILA — Grieving relatives of people who died in the sinking of an inter-island ferry camped outside the office of the shipping line Wednesday and surged toward its gates when word spread that more bodies were recovered.

The navy said 141 corpses have been found since the Dona Paz, believed to have been carrying more than 1,600 people, collided with the tanker Victor and sank in blazing seas Sunday night.

Only 26 people survived the disaster, one of the worst in peacetime in this century.

Relatives surged toward the gates of Sulpicio Shipping Lines, owner of the 2,215-ton Dona Paz, when it became known that a commercial ship was bringing in eight bodies Wednesday.

The ship docked elsewhere in Manila harbor. The bodies, in netting on the rear of the ship, were transferred to a coast guard vessel and taken to a funeral home.

The Dona Paz, which sank in about 1,800 feet of water in the Tablas Straits, may have become a mass grave for most of those aboard. Many bodies that floated free could have been swept away by strong currents in the area off Mindoro Island.

Sulpicio said its records showed that the Philippine ferry carried 60 crew members and 1,583 passengers, including 675 who boarded in Tacloban and 908 at Catbalogan. Passenger manifests on inter-island ferries are notoriously inaccurate because they usually do not list children or adults who buy tickets after boarding.

A policeman on Mindoro Island near the site of the sinking said a 4-year-old boy found floating on a piece of timber Tuesday was not from the ferry, as reported by government radio operators earlier.

Tech. Sgt. Victor Yap said by radio-telephone from Pinamalayan that the boy was hurt during an outing with his father, who put him on a piece of wood to float him to shore. Yap attributed the reporting error to "confusion."

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