This rainy monsoon season has been proving to be rather hard on sea travel in the Visayas area. This goes double for the motorized boat passenger ferries that are the common and affordable means of transport between Visayan Islands. Two Saturdays ago, tragedy struck the waters between Iloilo City and the island province of Guimaras when some freak squalls wrought by the monsoon winds capsized three motorized passenger mini-ferries. A score of fatalities were suffered before rescue could arrive. Now, another mishap has occurred, this time in the eastern Visayas, and while nobody was hurt, it was another reminder that the monsoons are potentially dangerous.
CNN Philippines reports that a motorized boat that departed Calbayog City for Tagapul-an, all within Samar Province, encountered some extreme conditions at sea that led to it being swamped just this Monday, August 12. According to Lt. JG Grade Welky Homer Saga, commander of the Coast Guard in Samar, the MB Miar Romces was on a return trip to Tagapul-an with passengers when the weather turned foul. Strong winds and large waves struck the mini-ferry, ultimately causing its wooden hull to crack and take in water. The Miar Romces had a total of 59 on board, passengers and crewmen combined.
In answer to why the motorized boat was allowed to sail from Calbayog with the risk of inclement weather, Lt. JG Saga noted that weather changes have been random in this monsoon season. At the time of departure for the MB Miar Romces it was noted that the weather was sunny. But no sooner that the craft gone 100 meters away from Calbayog port it turned unruly. Thankfully, the boat did not sink completely, buying those on board enough time to be evacuated by responding elements from the Philippine Coast Guard, the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council of Calbayog, the PNP Maritime Group and vessels from Lite Ferries.
An official report submitted to the Coast Guard station in Samar states that no casualties were suffered in the incident, with all 59 passengers and crew of the Miar Romces rescued and accounted for. The mini-ferry itself was not a complete loss as it was towed back to port in Calbayog with no further incident. The PCG has announced a follow-up investigation on what happened Monday. In the meantime the Coast Guard has closed several ports in Luzon and Visayas due to unfavorable weather, with over 200 stranded passengers and more than 20 vessels and “MB” craft stuck to berths.
This was a comparatively happier conclusion compared to the three-vessel Guimaras tragedy, with a minimum 31 confirmed dead by drowning. Local Coast Guard commanders in that area were suspended while an investigation is being formed.
Image courtesy of SunStar