(CEBU CITY - Public Information Office) Eight days after a tragedy by the sea involving the Ro-Ro passenger marine vessel St. Thomas Aquinas 1 of 2Go Travel which sank off Friday evening August 16 in the vicinity of Lawis Ledge part of Talisay City, Cebu Province after colliding with cargo marine vessel Sulcon Express 7 of Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corporation (PSACC), and with the confusing and changing figures reported, the Philippine Coast Guard has reconciled with 2Go Group to come up with corrected figures and revealed in a Command Conference 1PM today August 24, 2013 Saturday that rescued survivors has already reached to 750, with casualties rising at 79 and 57 still missing or unaccounted.
Ms. Luz Torrevillas, 2Go Travel Passage Manager has said that the figures are corrected following the changes with reconciled updates from the Philippine Coast Guard, Hospitals, Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes and Hotels were some survivors are staying.
The confirmed rescued survivors has already reached to 750, of which 646 are passengers while 104 are crew. The sunken M/V St. Thomas Aquinas 1 which came from the ports of Surigao City and Nasipit in Butuan City and supposed to dropped-by in the Port of Cebu City before proceeding to Manila, carried 870 people on board with 754 passengers and 116 crew in the Official Manifesto of 2Go Travel.
The fatalities totaled to 79 which were already autopsied and preserved at the Cosmopolitan Funeral Home along Junquera Street, this city. On the other hand, 50 are still missing with 43 passengers and 7 crew while 7 are unaccounted both passengers and crew.
Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes manager Mr. Bong Ebo has reported that as of this command conference, 79 cadavers with 76 bodies and 3 body parts were already autopsied and preserved, of which 53 are identified and 26 are unidentified, adding that they are following the protocol for the clearance from the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the issuance of death certificates from City Health Department before the releasing of cadavers. However they assured that they get tissues of each casualties for future use especially those who are not yet identified.
Ebo further shared that the 26 unidentified bodies are still in their custody waiting for the proper identification by the investigators from SOCO and NBI.
Torrevillas also clarified that 26 survivors which are all passengers are still in hotels, and 475 survivors were given plane tickets on their way home to their respective places, while 41 preserved cadavers were shipped to Surigao, Nasipit, Butuan, Manila and Davao.
In addition, City Councilor Mary Ann Delos Santos has also reported that only 12 survivors are still admitted in hospitals.
Looking back, the Cebu City Government headed by re-elected Cebu City Mayor Michael Lopez Rama has come in with the situation by creating a multi-agency team to help the victims, assist in the search and emergency rescue operations, and addressing of the oil spillage. The Mayor has directed not to prolong the agony of the people and that all problems must be properly addressed, adding that time element is very crucial with this crisis.
The 2Go Travel has also attended to the different concerns of the victims, by extending support and distributed an initial cash assistance such as Five Thousand Pesos Cash to each survivors for both passengers and Crew deductible to their insurance, clothing, personal needs, food, temporary shelter with some housed in 2Go Office, Sugbutel and Hotel Pier 4, medical assistance, stress debriefing with the help of city's Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) and DSWD, and airline transportation, among others.
Mr. Grant Go, the Vice President of the PSACC who has already reiterated said that, "From Day 1 we coordinated with 2Go and rescued 183 passengers and 33 crew of the downed ship right then when the incident happened, and as of this moment we are doing whatever we can to help in the ongoing rescue efforts," adding that their vessel stayed in the collision area to help in the rescue operation until the following day.
VP BINAY AND PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT OF SURIGAO EXTEND ASSISTANCE
His Excellency Jejomar Binay, Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines has sent representative who arrived today August 24, Saturday to extend a financial assistance worth Three Thousand Pesos (Php3,000.00) for the bereaved families of the identified victims of the tragedy.
Ms. Madolyn Abuan, VP Binay's disbursing officer has said that only those families of the identified casualties can get a burial assistance with the confirmation of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) which will be given in cash today and will be released at the Mayor's Conference Room turned Command Center in Cebu City Hall.
On the other hand, the Provincial Government of Surigao del Norte headed by couple Governor Sol F. Matugas and the Province's First District Congressman Francisco 'Lalo' Matugas has given a financial assistance of Five Thousand Pesos (Php5,000.00) each for the families of the casualty, and Three Thousand Pesos (Php3,000.00) each for the Survivors.
Governor Matugas has personally visited the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes on Thursday August 22 to express her condolences, and left in Cebu her representative Mr. Romeo Cal to oversee the assistance.
More than Fifty (50) passengers of the ill-fated MV St. Thomas Aquinas 1 of 2Go Travel are from Surigao del Norte.
In an interview with the BARUGG News Cal revealed that only victims from the province of Surigao del Norte can avail of the assistance adding that they will also extend a legal assistance if the need arises. He can be contacted at Cellular Phone Number 09089459318.
DIVERS PLUG SEVEN SOURCES OF OIL SLICK
(CEBU CITY - Public Information Office) Eight days after the Cebu ship collision, technical expert divers from Philippine Coast Guard, Malayan Towage and Salvage Corporation, Nippon Salvage Company and other volunteer divers sealed and plugged at least Seven sources of leaks of the oil slick from sunken M/V St. Thomas Aquinas 1.
Engr. Noel Kimunayong of the Malayan Towage and Salvage Corporation has reported that they are hopeful that after plugging the sources of the oil slicks the next step is to get the remaining oil in the vessel.
Captain Daniel Sarmiento also from Malayan Towage and Salvage Corporation said that the estimated volume of the oil remained in the sunken vessel is about 40 percent of the total oil carried by the ship.
2Go spokesperson Angelito Salvio has already clarified that the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas 1 which had an authorized capacity of 1,100 passengers and crew and 160 units of 20-footer containers has no hazardous cargoes but only the agricultural products placed in the container vans, adding that the ferry had Twenty thousand (20,000) liters of diesel fuel and One hundred Twenty thousand (120,000) liters of bunker or crude fuel in the ship's fuel tank and Twenty thousand (20,000) liters of lube oil that were being used by the engines when it was running.
The oil slick from the defunct M/V St. Thomas Aquinas 1 has caused an oil spillage affecting about 3 kilometers area spreading with the North-East direction from the collision site.
Several activities are conducted by different groups to combat an estimated of Fifty thousand (50,000) liters of oil spillage from the ill-fated M/V St. Thomas Aquinas 1 which spreads with the North-East direction of tide and current, affecting about 3 kilometers area spreading with the North-East direction from the collision site and reaching the Cordova town and some parts of Lapu-Lapu City.
Salvio, the spokesperson of 2Go said that at least Two (2) London-based oil spill experts from the International Tankers Oil Pollution Federation (ITOPF) arrived in Cebu to help in solving the problem on oil spillage in coordination with the Philippine Coast Guard. ITOPF has taken part in successful efforts in different parts of the globe in cleaning at least Six (6) major oil spill disasters in history.
Engr. Noel Kimunayong has revealed that they use environmental-friendly Chemical agents regulated by the Philippine Coast Guards in dispersing the oil sheen to separate the molecules and reduce the oil which will allow natural elements such as wind and waves to dissolve the oil, adding that they also set-up a "spill boom," a temporary floating barrier used to contain and control the spread of an oil spill.
Furthermore, Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella who is tasked to oversee the environmental aspects has already initiated action plans in coordination with different groups in conducting activities and operations to help control and mitigate the oil spillage which affects not just the environment but also the livelihood of the fisher-folks and the tourism industry, among others.
The city continue collecting indigenous materials such as human hair, chicken feathers, coconut and corn husks, cogon leaves, among others. While other volunteer groups, other local government units and civic organizations including owners and operators of beaches has conducted clean-up drive in the affected coastal areas.
HUMAN HAIR NOT ADVISABLE
Following the findings from the environmentalists that the human hair is non-biodegradable if it will be used in combating the oil spillage, and the next problem after the operation will be the disposal, Mayor Rama has ordered the temporary suspension of the free haircut at the City Hall Lobby.
The Mayor has also asked everyone's opinion in this afternoon's command conference and in unison everybody agreed that the hair-cutting must be temporarily put on hold especially the plan of ABS-CBN Cebu to conduct a massive hair-cutting which will supposedly conducted this Saturday afternoon at the Fuente Rotunda area.
For Allianza Gonzalez, a concern citizen, she aired-out that, "Using the hair to control the oil spill is not effective. The hair does not absorb oil if it is wet," adding that experiment with your own hair, after taking a bath, put oil on your hair, you will observe that it will not absorb the desired quantity and the excess oil will stay on your palm.
"How many heads will be shave after getting a sack of human hair," another comment was also brought up.
Mayor Rama also suggested that instead of human hair other indigenous materials which are biodegradable like the coconut and corn husks must be used in the attempt to combat the oil spill.
Captain Daniel Sarmiento also from Malayan Towage and Salvage Corporation has also said that any ways and means that will help solve the oil spillage is welcome and necessary to speed up in solving the problem.
Moreover, as of this writing the focus is on search and emergency rescue operations, retrieval operation for the possible trapped bodies in the sunken vessel, helping the victims and addressing the oil spill. (By: Greggy Jiggs P. Senados, PIO Staff)
2Go, PCG: Rescued survivors remain at 750, death toll rises at 79, 57 still missing
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