Search goes on as death toll from Philippines typhoon hits 130

Most of the 747 passengers and crew of a ferry that ran aground and tipped over in stormy seas still unaccounted for.

typhoon philipinnes 224 (photo credit: AP)
typhoon philipinnes 224
(photo credit: AP)
Rescuers searched Monday for survivors of Typhoon Fengshen after it cut a violent path through the Philippines and left many hundreds dead or missing in flood-swollen villages and a capsized ferry. The death toll from the typhoon was put at more than 130 late Sunday, but most of the 747 passengers and crew of a ferry that ran aground then tipped over in stormy seas were still unaccounted for. Only 10 wave-battered survivors were known to have made it to land after the ship was struck by the typhoon Saturday. Several bodies, including a man and woman who had bound themselves together, drifted ashore on a high tide awash with children's slippers and life jackets. The 23,824-ton Princess of Stars was traveling from Manila to Cebu on when it ran aground a few miles (kilometers) off central Sibuyan island then capsized, said Mayor Nanette Tansingco of Sibuyan's San Fernando. Coast guard frogmen who managed to get to the stricken ship got no response when they rapped on the hull with metal instruments late Sunday, then had to give up for the night due to strong waves. They hoped to get inside on Monday, possibly with US assistance requested by the Philippine Red Cross. After the storm stymied earlier attempts to reach the ship and kept aircraft at bay, a rescue vessel battled huge waves and strong winds to approach Sunday, more than 24 hours after the ferry lost radio contact. "They're scouring the area. They're studying the direction of the waves to determine where survivors may have drifted," coast guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Arman Balilo said. Officials were checking reports that a large number of survivors might have reached one nearby island, coast guard spokesman Cmdr. Antonio Cuasito said. Survivor Reynato Lanoria, a janitor on the ship, estimated about 100 people could have escaped the vessel, but thought the others were trapped inside. Lanoria said he was on the top deck when a crew member ordered people to put on life vests around 11:30 a.m. Saturday. About 30 minutes later, the ship began tilting so fast that elderly people and children fell on the slippery deck. The typhoon lashed the central Philippines early Saturday, setting off landslides and floods, knocking out power and blowing off roofs. In the province of Iloilo, Gov. Neil Tupaz said 59 people drowned, with another 40 missing. "Almost all the towns are covered by water. It's like an ocean," Tupaz said. Overall, hundreds were listed missing. Packing sustained winds of 74 miles (120 kilometers) per hour and gusts of up to 93 mph, the typhoon shifted course Sunday to the northwest and battered Manila at dawn, dumping heavy rain on the capital. Major streets were flooded, and numerous traffic lights were out. Anthony Golez, deputy chief of the Office of Civil Defense, said the storm took an erratic path and never slowed down when it hit land with huge deluges of rain. The typhoon-prone Philippines was the scene of the world's worst peacetime maritime disaster when the ferry Dona Paz sank in 1987, killing more than 4,341 people.