Thursday, November 06, 2008

A ferry sinking tragedy in the Phillippines

This tragic ferry sinking case has been in the news for a couple of days now. Perhaps the article in the Standard of Hong Kong yesterday had provided a good summary on what has happened:
An inter-island ferry packed with commuters capsized yesterday as it was buffeted by sudden winds and waves southeast of Manila, killing at least 40 people.

The ferry, with 119 people listed on board, keeled over after being struck by a freak wind off the island of Masbate, said Senior Superintendent Ruben Sindac.

"The Don Dexter Kathleen capsized due to a freak accident. It was hit by a high wind despite fair weather and calm waters," he said. Rescue services recovered 40 bodies and 76 survivors were pulled from the water.

Other reports put the casualty numbers at 42. Here are some further details:

The navy, coast guard and local authorities were continuing to search the area between Masbate and Sorsogon port in southern Luzon.

The coastguard described the vessel as a large wooden-hulled outrigger.

Police officer Roy Almine, who helped in the rescue, said huge waves and strong winds suddenly hit the boat, causing it to overturn and toss passengers into the sea.

"There was some kind of whirlwind," Sindac said. "There was no rain, no typhoon; the waters were calm when it happened. There were high railings and tarpaulin on the side so when the vessel overturned, these may have helped to trap the passengers."

The ferry had just left the town of Dimasalang on the northeast coast of Masbate for Sorsogon port 80 kilometers away.

Lieutenant Jeffrey Collado, the local coast guard chief, said four people were still missing and there may be more still unaccounted for.

The accident comes four months after the 23,000-tonne inter-island ferry Princess of the Stars capsized in a typhoon off the central island of Sibuyan carrying 850 passengers and crew.

Only 57 passengers and crew survived the accident, which was the worst maritime disaster in the Philippines for 20 years.

Here are the location and a view at the scene from BBC:

While "huge waves and strong winds suddenly hit the boat" appears to be the culprit, boat overloading is also indicated in the BBC report. From the academic point of view, however, a sudden happening of huge waves and strong winds seems to be always happening and the happening is clearly difficult to confirm or dispute. There is just not enough tangible knowledge base to cover this part of the nature phenomena. Sadly there is no remedy in sight either.

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