Sunday, June 22, 2008

Flood - Philippine (Sibuyan) JUN

A ferry carrying more than 700 passengers has partially sunk off the coast of the central Philippine island of Sibuyan after being battered by huge waves caused by a typhoon, officials say.

Fengshen displaced thousands of people as flashfloods caused rivers to overflow

The MV Princess of the Star sent a distress signal late on Saturday after Typhoon Fengshen lashed the Pacific nation leaving at least 19 people dead.

Nanette Tansingco, mayor of the coastal town of San Fernando in Romblon province, said: "I sent a speedboat to check on the report, and they saw the boat submerged with a hole in the hull.

"They saw the name Princess of the Star and there were at least four bodies there," he told DZMM local radio.

Eleandro Madrona, a local congressman, said on local radio: "The ship sank 3km from the shoreline. So far, we have only found four dead, no survivors.

"I would assume people started to transfer to rubber boats after the captain abandoned the ship.

"You can only see the bow of the ship now, it's already down in the water," she said, citing accounts from villagers.

The 22,000 tonne ferry was carrying 626 passengers and 121 crewmembers.

Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, the Philippines coast guard chief, said the MV Princess of the Star was "dead in the water" after its engine failed around noon on Saturday near Sibuyan.

Port captain Nestor Ponteres said the ferry's owner Sulpicio Lines lost radio contact with the ship.


Rescue difficulty

A rescue vessel sent to the area was forced to return to its home port in Batangas city because of big waves, Commander Antonio Cuasito, Cebu coast guard spokesman, said.

Another rescue ship was sent from central Cebu city, where the Princess of the Star was headed when it left Manila late on Friday, but it was unclear when it would reach the area.

There are fears that the sinking of the vessels could vastly increase the number of casualties from Typhoon Fengshen.

At least 19 people were killed when flashfloods and landslides forced rivers to break their banks across the Philippines.

Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave the worst-affected areas on Saturday as heavy rains from the typhoon lashed the archipelago.

Ten people drowned and five were missing after a river burst its banks in Maguindanao province.

In Cotabato City, a man and a child were buried in a landslide at a rubbish dump, police said, while five other people were drowned.

Thousands of residents in the city of Iloilo were left stranded on rooftops after a dam burst.
'Worst flooding'

Serg Biron, an Iloilo congressman, told DZBB radio said: "I have received a lot of text messages appealing for helicopters, there are many people trapped on the rooftops.

Filipinos used inflated tires and rafts to keep afloat [AFP]
"This is the worst flooding that has hit Iloilo in history."

The National Power Corporation was forced to shut down its power plant in the area, triggering a blackout across the province, Nelson Hemona, the plant's manager, said.

Fengshen, the sixth typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, tore up trees and power lines across wide swathes of the country. Flights were cancelled and ships kept in harbour.

The storm forced more than 200,000 people to seek temporary shelter in the eastern Bicol region, a civil defence office said.

Gloria Arroyo, the country's president, ordered clean-up and rescue operations before leaving for an eight-day trip to the United States.

Government agencies were instructed to stockpile relief goods and state-run hospitals were put on alert.

Arroyo also ordered a crackdown on profiteers and hoarders of basic commodities, especially rice, in areas hit hard by the typhoon. - Source

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