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Hearing: Captain In Ship Disaster Ignored Typhoon Warning

November 5, 1988

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ The captain of a Philippine ship that sank in Typhoon Ruby with 500 people aboard did not heed repeated weather warnings, an official told a hearing on the Oct. 24 disaster.

Juanito Lirios, deputy director of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, gave the testimony at the opening of a government hearing on the sinking of the Dona Marilyn.

The Maritime Industry Authority, which conducted the hearing, said it would order owners Sulpicio Lines to show cause why it should not lose its franchise because of the disaster, the second within 10 months involving a Sulpicio passenger ship.

Officials say 161 passengers and 39 crewmen have been rescued so far from the Dona Marilyn. At least 76 people are confirmed dead.

On Wednesday, President Corazon Aquino said she was suspending Sulpicio’s passenger service indefinitely.

But Sulpicio Vice President Vicente Gambito said Friday he had received no such order and service was continuing. Philip Tuazon, chief of maritime authority, said the suspension meant all Sulpicio vessels would be held in port until they and their crews passed inspection.

Lirios said the weather center issued 21 advisories on the approach of Typhoon Ruby starting Oct. 23, the day before the Dona Marilyn sailed from Manila to Tacloban on Leyte island.

The first bulletin warned the typhoon was threatening the eastern Visayas islands, where the vessel sank, he said.

The advisories go to the center’s 64 coastal radio stations, which relay them to ships at sea.

″It is the duty of the captain to monitor the weather,″ Lirios said.

Coast guard officials said they cleared the Dona Marilyn for sailing because weather in Manila was good.

On Thursday, shipowners appealed to Mrs. Aquino to reconsider suspending Sulpicio, the country’s largest domestic shipping company. It operates 22 passenger and cargo ships which carry 20 percent of domestic traffic among the country’s 7,200 islands.

″We would like to caution the government against taking hasty decisions,″ said Pacencio Balbon, president of the Conference of Interisland Shipowners and Operators.

Figures on the Dona Marilyn’s casualty toll vary widely because of conflicting reports on the number aboard. The skipper, Capt. Eliodoro Salgado, is among the missing.

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