08/17/2013, 00.00
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Cebu, ferry sinks leaving 28 dead and over 270 missing

The Thomas Aquinas, with more than 700 passengers on board collided with a cargo ship coming into port. Rescue operations continues as the judiciary opens an investigation to establish responsibility. Many were asleep at the time of the accident, even children among the victims.

Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 28 dead and over 270 missing is the toll so far from the accident that involved a passenger ship - the Thomas Aquinas, with over 700 people on board - and a freighter. The disaster occurred overnight in the port of Cebu, the second most populous city in the Philippines. The commander immediately ordered the evacuation of the ferry, which capsized and sank to the bottom in record time. The authorities are checking the names of the people in hospitals, while rescue teams are still engaged in the search for the missing.

The ferry came from Nasipit, a city in the province of Agusan del Sur, southern Philippines. In an official statement 2Go, the company that owns the vessel, said that the ferry "was hit" by the cargo ship, causing "serious damage, which led to the sinking."

The judiciary has opened an investigation to determine responsibility, although now the focus is on the recovery operations of the hundreds of people on board, of which there has been no news.

Jerwin Agudong, one of the survivors, said he saw people - including children - trapped and corpses float on water. He said that the ship was entering the harbor, when it collided with a cargo ship that was in its trajectory. In the moments after impact, hundreds of passengers were thrown into the sea while the crew distributed life-saving jackets. Many were asleep at the time of the accident and the lack of light further hampered operations to abandon the ship.

Accidents at sea are a common occurrence in Philippine archipelago, because of the many storms, poor maintenance and lack of attention to the most basic safety rules. Among the many registered in the last decades, one of the worst was in 1987 when the ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with a ship carrying fuel killing more than 4,300 people. It was the worst disaster in the world with the highest number of casualties. In 2008, the MV Princess of the Stars sank, after it was engulfed by a tropical typhoon leaving 800 the dead.


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