Tuesday, September 26, 2006

5 Crew Men Of Ill-Fated Ferry Rescued At Sea

ABANDON SHIP: Philippine Navy and Coast Guard rescue crew members from a ferry that is listing on its left side at the southern port city of Zamboanga, Philippines on Tuesday, 26 Sept 2006. The vessel ran aground after hitting a reef at nearby Sta. Cruz Island and was battered by huge waves. No casualties were reported. (Mindanao Examiner)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 26 Sept) Five Filipino crew men were rescued from a sinking ferry Tuesday as heavy rains and huge waves battered small sea crafts off the southern port city of Zamboanga City, the Coast Guard said.

"Navy and Coast Guard teams rescued the five crew members of M/L Harcima-1," Claro Pontecha, leader of a Coast Guard rescue team, told the Mindanao Examiner.

He said the boat was on its way to the coastal village of Recodo when it hit the reef, several nautical miles off the Sta. Cruz Island. The daring rescue took hours because huge waves and strong winds were making it difficult for the Coast Guard and Navy boats to go near the sinking ferry.

"We have to use two vessels and divers to rescue the crew and inspect the condition around the ill-fated boat; whether we can pull it out from the water or not," he said.

The boat was not carrying any passengers, except for the crew, Pontecha said. The rescued crewmen were taken by the Coast Guard to its base in Zamboanga.

Heavy rains and huge waves forced many fishermen to anchor their vessels. "We cannot go out at sea in this condition. Look at the waves and look around you, it is not safe to go out at sea because of the bad weather," said Omar Sakalahul, a fisherman.

Many streets in downtown Zamboanga were flooded and a large portion of the city was without electricity since morning because tree trunks, felled by strong winds, tripped power pylons in some areas.

Private and public schools also sent their students home early by midday. Boat passengers bound for Jolo and Tawi-Tawi islands in the southern Philippines were also stranded in Zamboanga after inter-island ferries refused to sail due to bad weather.

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