Page last updated at 11:44 GMT, Thursday, 26 June 2008 12:44 UK

Philippine divers face grim task

US Navy divers prepare to search the US Navy divers prepare to search the Princess Of The Stars
US Navy divers are helping the recovery operation

It may be up to a month before the bodies of the people killed when a ferry capsized in the Philippines can be recovered, officials say.

Around 100 Philippine and US divers have been trying to retrieve the estimated 800 bodies, but only three have so far been brought out.

The work is being hampered by debris in passageways and by poor visibility and strong undercurrents.

The Princess of the Stars overturned on Saturday during Typhoon Fengshen.

Identification problems

"It will take a month to retrieve all the bodies," said coastguard spokesman Jansen Benjamin.

Ferry leaves Manila on Friday
Engines failed Saturday afternoon
Radio contact lost soon afterwards
Rescuers reach ship on Sunday afternoon

"Divers have sighted many bodies but have not been able to retrieve them as the entrances and exits are blocked. Some of the cadavers are tangled in wires."

Officials say it is not possible to cut holes in the ship's side because this could make the vessel shift or leak some of the estimated 25,000 litres (15,500 gallons) of oil on board.

However, the divers "are getting instruments and tools that would break through the doors and windows", Mr Benjamin said.

Although some 127 bodies have been pulled from waters off Sibuyan island, many of them are likely to be those of other victims of the typhoon: at least nine other vessels were lost at around the same time as the Princess Of The Stars.


Families are demanding more information from authorities about the retrieval operation.

Maricel Tigcom posts pictures of her sister
Relatives are desperate to know the fate of their loved ones
"If the shipping company has any sympathy, they should help us," said Marianita Tinio, whose family members were on board the ferry on their way back from holiday.

"We just want to see our loved ones. My mother, my two children, and my brother... we just want to bury them properly, not in a haphazard way."

Meanwhile Sulpicio Lines, which owns the ferry, said it would pay 200,000 esos ($4,500) compensation for every person who perished in the disaster, and would also give some money to survivors.

The seven-deck ferry was sailing from the capital Manila to Cebu when it went down.

Just 57 survivors have been found out of more than 850 passengers and crew, making it one of the country's worst maritime disasters.

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21 Jun 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Animated guide: Typhoon
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Country profile: The Philippines
12 Feb 08 |  Country profiles


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