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Divers find no ferry survivors

Passengers who may have hesitated to abandon the sinking ship lost their lives, a Philippine official says.

June 24, 2008|From the Associated Press

MANILA — Divers managed to get inside a capsized ferry today but found only bodies and no survivors, three days after the vessel carrying more than 800 people capsized during a powerful typhoon, officials said.

Philippine navy spokesman Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo would not speculate on whether anyone still might be found alive but indicated that the amount of time that had passed since the disaster made it unlikely. He said the ship's interior was too dark to even determine how many bodies were there.

"Most of the bodies were floating inside. They were trapped when the seven-story ship suddenly tilted and capsized," he told DZBB radio.

Arevalo said that it was possible some passengers could have survived initially, but the roiling seas had kept rescuers at bay too long and suffocation may have claimed some lives.

He said some of the bodies had life vests, but many passengers apparently hesitated to jump into the turbulent water before the ship capsized because "it happened too sudden." Survivors said the ship listed and went down in half an hour or less.

Coast guard chief Adm. Wilfredo Tamayo said about 20 coast guard and navy divers were expected to be joined by frogmen from a U.S. Navy ship coming from Guam.

He said the divers had broken windows and used every other gap they could find to get into the 23,824-ton Princess of Stars. Only one end of the boat is jutting from the water off Sibuyan Island.

Typhoon Fengshen left 163 people dead in flooded communities in the central Philippines, not including the ferry victims.

Only about three dozen ferry survivors have been found, including 28 who drifted at sea for more than 24 hours, first in a raft, then in life jackets, before they were found Sunday about 80 miles away.

Officials initially reported that 747 passengers and crew members were aboard the ferry, but said Monday that it was carrying about 100 more. Six bodies, including those of a man and woman who had bound themselves together, have washed ashore, along with children's slippers and life jackets.

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