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Over 800 Filipinos feared dead as ferry capsizes

Over 800 Filipinos feared dead as ferry capsizes

Manila: More than 800 Filipinos are thought to have perished in one of the worst maritime disasters in history. 140 kmh winds from Typhoon Fengshen capsized the MV Princess of the Stars ferry owned by local operator Sulpicio Lines as it made its way from Manila to the centre of the country around noon on Saturday. The ship sank off Sibuyan Island in Romblon province.

Twenty eight survivors have been found alive, local radio reported on Monday. The group made it to a small village in Quezon province in the centre of the archipelago after drifting at sea for more than 24 hours, radio dzBB reported. Initially there were 30 of them but two died, local radio reported. The discovery raises the number of survivors to 32.

The Philippine Coast Guard is coming under intense scrutiny for allowing the vessel to depart the capital despite the clear danger presented by Typhoon Fengshen, which had already ripped through the centre of the country on Saturday and was heading north.

The president of the nation, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has promised a full inquiry into the disaster, the latest in a series of mammoth ferry tragedies to have hit the archipelago. Sulpicio Lines has an ominous track record. In September 18, 1998, Sulpicio's M/V Princess of the Orient, sailing from Manila to Cebu, capsized at 12:55 p.m. near Fortune Island in Batangas. Of 388 passengers on board, 150 perished. Passengers were floating at sea for more than 12 hours before rescuers were able to reach survivors.

Sulpicio is also partially responsible for the world's worst peacetime shipping tragedy when M/V Dona Paz collided with the tanker  M/T Vector in 1987, killing 4,341. Another Sulpicio vessel, M/V Dona Marilyn, sank a year later, killing around 250 passengers. In 2005, Sulpicio's M/V Princess of the World caught fire while at sea, but no injuries were reported.  [23/6/08]



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