Search and rescue in Cebu. ---Photo by Erik De Castro, Reuters
MANILA (UPDATE 4) – The death toll from a ferry disaster in Cebu climbed to 38 after divers retrieved another body on Sunday afternoon.
The Philippine Navy identified the body as that of Ricardo Butalon who was wearing stripes t-shirt and black denim pants.
The body of Butalon was brought to the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes in Cebu City.
The number of people missing from the disaster dropped from 170 to 82, authorities said, after all those involved in the search reconciled their figures. The lower figure is not because of late rescues, stressed Neil Sanchez, regional disaster management office head in Cebu.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said additional bodies were recovered earlier in the day by divers from the ill-fated sea vessel – a male adult and two children.
The male adult was wearing checkered short pants, and his body was bloated making physical identification difficult.
The young girl was wearing green pajamas and a brown shirt, while the young boy was in his white pants and black shirt.
The bodies were brought to the Talisay Fish Port where the command center for the retrieval operation is located.
Of the recovered bodies that have been brought to the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes in Cebu City, 23 have already been identified.
The following fatalities who have been identified are:
1. Domingo Anonat
2. Alfonso Camanzo
3. Jonathan Cabural
4. Romulo Escrupolo
5. Niceta Ancla
6. Teogenes Jabines
7. Armida Manalon
8. Hilario Maligro
9. Lolita Butao
10. Artemia Bonotan
11. Vicente Ancla
12. Evelyn Caro
13. Cresencia Colipano
14. Nilen Manosa Menia (crew)
15. Antonio Arbutante
16. Joshua Rene Diaz
17. Cherry Durano
18. Julius Flores
19. Eugenia Balacuit
20. Horonata Laag
21. Queenie Galope
22. Jane Sanchez
23. Jessame Pigar Bacia
24. Ricardo Butalon
“We have constituted a team that would ensure that these bodies are claimed by the right next of kin. At the moment, the NBI and the SOCO are equipped to determine the necessary identification of fatalities,” Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III said in a press conference on Sunday.
The St. Thomas Aquinas was passing through a narrow strait in the port of Cebu when it collided with a cargo ship on Friday night.
The Thomas Aquinas was carrying more than 800 people, while the Sulpicio Express 7, which did not sink, had 36 crew members.
Davide said Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio "Jun" Aguinaldo Abaya already gave a directive to have a thorough investigation of the incident.
Search and rescue operations conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard in Central Visayas were suspended Saturday afternoon due to bad weather.
On Saturday, Abaya said the Sulpicio Express 7 may have violated the vessel traffic separation scheme implemented in the area.
Abaya said initial investigations indicate that the cargo vessel rammed into the 2GO passenger vessel at a “very vulnerable point,” causing it to sink.
Following the accident, the Maritime Industry Authority suspended the operations of all ships owned by 2GO and Philippine Span Asia (formerly Sulpicio Lines). – with reports from Agence France Presse; Carine Asutilla, ABS-CBN News Central Visayas; and Dexter Ganibe, dzMM