Saturday, June 11, 2011

‘Thank God they wore orange life jackets’

By Donna Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Saturday, June 11, 2011

Their bright orange life jackets saved them.

Almost a day after they sent out a radio message saying they were sinking, 24 fishermen of the boat F/V 3MS Wolf were plucked out of sea by a passing cargo ship in a rescue operation off Pangasinan province.

The 45-ton Wolf was one of at least four fishing vessels caught in stormy seas off Luzon at the height of Tropical Storm “Dodong.” The storm roared out of the country yesterday.

The 24 fishermen survived a night bobbing in the sea and were rescued yesterday morning after a Philippine Navy search plane spotted their orange jackets, relief officials said.

“Their boat sank. They had no boat. They were just floating. It was a good thing they all wore life jackets. No one died,” Office of Civil Defense Region I Director Andrew Uy said in a phone interview.

Uy said a Navy Islander aircraft spotted the fishermen around noon yesterday 38 nautical miles northwest of Bolinao, Pangasinan.

The Navy asked the nearest ship, the private cargo vessel MV Sea Palace, to pick them up and bring them to the nearest port.

Uy said the fishermen sailed out to Scarborough Shoal on Tuesday and were last heard from around 3:30 p.m. Thursday while “Dodong” was swirling across the sea.

‘We’re about to sink!’

The Wolf was heading for shore when its captain, Dominiano Sentino, was contacted on radio by company operations manager Rodrigo Caranay. Sentino was asking for help, saying his boat’s pump had malfunctioned.

“Lulubog na kami (We’re about to sink)!” Caranay said, quoting Sentino.

Last message

Caranay said he immediately asked for help from town officials, who then contacted the Coast Guard.

“That was their last communication that reached Bolinao. After that, nothing more was heard from them. (The people) believe their boat had sunk,” Uy said.

Fred Castelo, Bolinao municipal administrator, said the Wolf had run into strong winds and was battered by huge waves.

He said the fishing boat had planned to stay at sea for five days after leaving Bolinao.

The Wolf’s two back-up boats were able to return to Bolinao.

3 other boats

Another fishing boat sank 16 nautical miles off Santiago Island on Thursday but the five fishermen on board were rescued by another fishing boat, Castelo said.

Another group of fishermen was rescued in the South China Sea 32 nautical miles from Bolinao’s shores, Castelo said.

Search operations were continuing yesterday for at least three Bolinao fishermen aboard another fishing boat and a raft who were reported missing on Thursday.

As of yesterday, the official death toll from “Dodong” stood at two, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

On Wednesday, a 10-year-old boy was swept away by floodwaters in Barangay (village) Sampaga, Batangas City. His body was found Thursday in a river.

Also on Wednesday, a woman drowned after she was carried away by strong currents while crossing the Kabangan River in Romblon.

Nine other people were missing in different areas as of yesterday afternoon.

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