Skipper Of Ship Sailed Six Hours In Storm Before Changing Course
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ The missing skipper of a ship that sank with hundreds aboard sailed six hours through raging seas before changing course in a hopeless attempt to escape Typhoon Ruby, an official said today.
Rescuers continued searching today for up to 253 people reported missing from Monday’s disaster.
A coast guard spokesman in Cebu City said two cutters and two commercial ships resumed the search at dawn around remote islands where the 2,855-ton Dona Marilyn sank, 300 miles southeast of Manila.
A shipping official said 201 people were rescued and 65 bodies recovered. Officials said survivors reached small islands that lack communications and some may have been counted twice by different government agencies.
There also was confusion over how many people were aboard the Dona Marilyn when it sailed Sunday from Manila for Tacloban, on Leyte Island. Sulpicio Lines, the ship’s owner, says there were 421 passengers and 66 crew members, but the numbers have varied in reports by company and coast guard officials.
Figures compiled today from Red Cross and government agencies showed the typhoon also killed 233 other people on land before roaring into the South China Sea on Tuesday.
Manila newspapers said today the names of 52 people reported rescued do not appear on the ship’s manifest. But some of those could be crew members since Sulpicio has not released a complete list of its employees who were aboard.
Jose Alcuaz, chairman of the National Telecommunications Commission, told a Senate committee today that according to company records Capt. Eliodoro Salgado radioed at 2:14 a.m. Monday that he was reducing speed because of ″big waves.″
At 7:28 a.m., Salgado, who is listed as missing, reported shutting down his engines because of ″minor difficulties″ and was being buffeted by ″very strong winds and waves,″ Alcuaz said.
Later, Alcuaz said, the captain reported changing course at 8:20 a.m. and was headed west, away from the typhoon. Sulpicio says the ship sank at about 3 p.m. after the crew tried vainly to pump out seawater.
Survivors interviewed by Manila television station GMA said many passengers were trapped in their cabins when the ship sank.
Bernardo Cabigon, Sulpicio station manager in Tacloban, said one elderly couple refused the crew’s instructions to leave, embraced one another and sank with the ship.
Cabigon quoted surviving crew members as saying the chief engineer gave up his place in a lifeboat to a passenger and disappeared in the raging seas.
A Sulpicio official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the ship’s purser, Kerwin Lim, reached an island but was stabbed to death by residents who stole his gold necklace and threw his body into the surf.
President Corazon Aquino has threatened to suspend the owner’s operations for letting the liner sail into the storm.
Mrs. Aquino said Thursday she may take action if the Department of Transportation finds the company negligent.
Philip Tuazon, administrator of the government’s Maritime Industry Authority, said Sulpicio was ordered to appear at a hearing next Wednesday ″to explain why we should not suspend them.″
Jose Baldicanas, the government’s transportation undersecretary, said the ship received a permit to sail because the weather was clear when it left for Tacloban, 350 miles to the southeast.
Another company ship was involved in one of the world’s worst peacetime shipping disasters when it collided in December 1987 with an oil tanker off Mindoro island. Official reports put the death toll at about 1,700, but most estimates placed the actual figure at more than 3,000. Only 28 people survived.