Manila ferries in fatal crash
 

Rescuers in the Philippines worked into the night to find dozens of people missing after two ferries collided near the capital Manila.

At least 17 people were feared dead following the collision, which sank one of the vessels off Corregidor Island in Manila Bay.

Anxious relatives were gathering at the coastguard headquarters for word on their loved ones.

Around 200 passengers from the sunken ferry, the wooden-hulled San Nicolas, were rescued following the collision at 11am (0300 GMT) on Sunday.

The disaster happened as monsoon rains and strong winds lashed the northern and central Philippines.

The coastguard and navy were helped by the crew of the larger ship, the Super Ferry 12, a helicopter and some commercial ships to find passengers from the sinking ship.

"Because of the very large number of vessels, it's pretty well covered," said coastguard chief, Vice Admiral Reuben Lista, of the rescue effort.

"The water was a little choppy, but visibility was very good."

Sinking fast

Survivors have been describing their ordeal.

Hilda Custodio, who was taken aboard the Superferry 12, told ABS-CBN television how her husband jumped into the water with one of their children. She hesitated with another child until the ship started to sink.

"The ship's front part broke apart and it sank very fast," she said. "We ran to the higher side of the ship and jumped out of a window. My husband and one of my children jumped ahead of us. I don't know where they are."

The San Nicolas was sailing from Coron in the western Philippines to Manila. The Super Ferry 12 had just left Manila, bound for Cebu in the central Philippines.

All the passengers and crew on board the more sturdy, steel Super Ferry 12 - believed to number around 1,700 - were safe.

The San Nicolas had an official passenger and crew list but, according to some reports, there may have been additional people on board.

Survivors were returning to Manila on the Superferry 12 and a coast guard ship - and were expected to be met by President Gloria Arroyo.

The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, has an extensive network of ferry services but the safety record of the domestic shipping industry is poor.

 

25/05/2003

Bron : BBC News World

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