Maritime tragedy has left many in the Philippines heart-broken when a cargo ship, M/V Sulpicio Express 7, and a passenger ship, St. Thomas Aquinas, collided with each other in the province of Cebu. Unfortunately, the official death toll count is now at thirty-eight. Between the two ships, a total of 870 individuals were aboard including both passengers and crew where there are still 82 people missing.
Indo Asian News Service released the following statement on behalf of the chief of the Philippine Coast Guard Station in the Cebu province, Winiel Azcuna, “Rescue operation which suspended Saturday due to strong winds and high waves, resumed Sunday morning. However, the oil spill has hampered rescue because it affects visibility, skin of the divers… The death toll is now 38.”
The loss of human lives is horrific; however, the tragedy has increasingly devastating outcomes on many additional levels. As a result of the collision, 31,700 gallons of bunker oil, 5,283 gallons of lube oil, and 5,283 gallons of diesel have been released into the ocean. Fumes from the oil pose risks for those involved in the rescue efforts.
The Governor of Cebu, Hilario Davide III, shared with the Phillippine Star, “Hopefully more missing can be found alive.”
Divers, members from the Navy and Coast Guard, and helicopters have all been released as part of the rescue efforts. The commander of the Philippine Coast Guard, Commodore William Melad, expressed his concern regarding the health risks for divers searching through the ship wreckage.
If anything positive can be reported from this incident, it relates to the exhaustive methods of authorities regarding continual efforts to search for the missing passengers. Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic of the Navy shared, “It is possible that there are air pockets in its compartments and there might be survivors. There is still hope that there might just be survivors there.”