The toxic endosulfan shipment trapped inside the capsized MV Princess of the Stars off Sibuyan Island in Romblon province is intact, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) announced Friday.
“Initial reconnaissance of the vessel’s overturned cargo hold revealed that the container van believed holding the endosulfan pesticide shipment is intact inside the debris-filled and poorly visible cargo desk,” DOTC Undersecretary Ma. Elena Bautista said.
After months of delay, the retrieval operations for the endosulfan shipment and other toxic cargo inside the capsized ferry started Wednesday.
Divers from the Titan Salvage and Harbor Star were able to peek through the capsized ship and locate the toxic shipment by creating an access hole on the starboard (right) side of the hull.
Bautista said the salvor teams have started preparing for the actual removal of the toxic shipment from the ferry.
As soon as the toxic shipment is removed, the DOTC official said divers will start the retrieval of the dead passengers trapped inside the ferry.
“The salvage divers teams will next collect human remains from MV Princess of the Stars ‘C’ and ‘B’ decks guided by video from the remote-controlled submersible vehicle deployed by Titan Salvage,” Bautista said.
She said “proper retrieval of the remains will be closely observed to facilitate their identification spearheaded by the National Bureau of Investigation.”
Bautista said the bodies to be recovered from the ferry will be brought directly to Cebu.
“We are advising the relatives of the dead or missing passengers not to hold vigils in Sibuyan since the remains once recovered will be brought directly to Cebu after they are thoroughly washed and placed individually in body bags,” she said.
At least 800 passengers and crewmembers drowned after the ferry capsized off Sibuyan Islands at the height of Typhoon Frank last June.
The Sulpicio Lines, owner of the ferry, has started releasing money to the victims’ relatives.
Other pesticides, toxins
United Nations and European Union experts have confirmed that five pesticides and other toxins were aboard the capsized ferry and urged steps to prevent an environmental disaster.
The experts' report released last month said the ferry was carrying a "substantial" amount of toxic pesticides as well as 100,000 liters of fuel for its engines when it capsized on June 21.
It said that one container aboard the wreck was found to contain pesticide endosulfan, carbofuran, propineb, metamidophos and niclosamide.
The experts recommended improved monitoring of water, sediment and air to assess the risk of pollution and to coastal populations. With Reuters