Bodies found in Philippine ferry

Rescue divers found bodies but no survivors as they began searching a capsized ferry in the Philippines, navy personnel say.

The ferry, carrying more than 800 people, overturned on Saturday in high seas caused by Typhoon Fengshen.

Fewer than 40 passengers and crew have been found alive, and officials fear most were trapped inside the vessel.

Teams of divers who made their way inside the ship saw no signs of life, officials said.

The ship is resting on the sea floor with the tip of its bow above water, just off Sibuyan Island.

Divers said it was too dark inside to make out many details, navy spokesman Lt-Col Edgard Arevalo reported.

"It was too dark inside to tell how many were children or elderly, but they did say they were mostly floating and they were apparently trapped inside," he said.

Rough seas have been hampering search efforts, but about 20 divers are at the scene.

They will soon be joined by US navy frogmen on board a US military vessel sailing from Guam, Coast Guard chief Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo said.

The divers on the scene had used broken windows and other access points to get inside the sunken ship. The focus now was on retrieving bodies, he added.

So far only about three dozen survivors have been found.

Investigation

On Monday, 28 people were found in a coastal village, while at least four more were found on Sunday. Reports of other groups of survivors remain unconfirmed.

Those who escaped the vessel have described scenes of panic as people struggled to board lifeboats in heavy seas and high winds.

Many people ended up jumping overboard, they said.

The seven-storey Princess of the Stars ferry was sailing from the capital Manila to Cebu when it went down.

President Gloria Arroyo has called for an inquiry into why the vessel was allowed to sail when a typhoon was forecast.

Vessels belonging to the owner, Sulpicio Lines, have been ordered to suspend operations pending inspections.

Typhoon Fengshen caused devastation across much of the central Philippines.

About 160 people died in flooding and landslides, while homes, bridges and roads were washed away.

In worst-hit Iloilo, hundreds of thousands of people were forced to evacuate, the Red Cross said.

The typhoon has now weakened to a tropical storm and is heading north into the South China Sea.

24/06/2008

Bron : BBC News

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