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Philippine Divers Find Bodies, No Survivors in Sunken Ferry


Divers in the central Philippines have found bodies but no survivors inside a ferry that sank during a typhoon with more than 800 people on board. Since the vessel capsized Saturday more than 40 survivors and dozens of bodies have been recovered at sea or on nearby islands, but most passengers and crew remain missing. Douglas Bakshian reports from Manila.

Philippine coast guard and naval officials say in one compartment of the ship divers saw 15 bodies floating, and many had no life jackets. The bodies of two crew members were spotted on the bridge, including one with a radio. Several bodies were removed Tuesday.

Divers were hampered by fallen furniture and equipment as they made their way through the vessel. Accounts by survivors say many passengers had little time to react when the ferry was hit hard by typhoon Fengshen Saturday, and began tilting to one side before capsizing off the central island of Sibuyan.

The ferry is sitting upside down on a coral reef and salvage teams do not want to do anything to disturb the balance of the vessel. There also is fuel in parts of the ship.

Philippine Navy spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo, told ABS-CBN television that divers are taking precautions in their work.

"They have studied the structure of the ship, the areas and the opening where they might have to come in, because we have to remember that there are closed compartments in these areas," Arevalo said. "The ship might still have onboard in certain areas, oil or petroleum, that they (the divers) just can't open."

Weather conditions were considered suitable for the ferry when it left Manila. However, the typhoon unexpectedly changed direction and headed into the path of the ship.

The ferry belonged to the Sulpicio shipping company, one of the largest ferry operators in the Philippines. Its vessels have been involved in three other disasters, including one in 1987 when the Dona Paz ferry collided with a tanker and sank. More than 4,000 people died.

Shipping accidents are common in the Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands. Many typhoons and storms strike each year and poor ship maintenance and unsafe operating practices contribute to frequent disasters.

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