PH coast guard ends search for missing Myanmar ship crewmen

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MANILA, Philippines–The Philippine Coast Guard on Wednesday said it already called off its search and rescue operations for the 14 missing crew members of a Myanmar ship that sank off Bolinao, Pangasinan on Saturday night.

PCG Northern Luzon district commander Capt. Pablo Gonzalez said the missing crewmen of the sunken MV Arita Bauxite were, so far, presumed dead and believed trapped inside the ill-fated vessel’s engine room.

“We terminated our rescue operation because we no longer see any indication that we still have survivors,” said Gonzalez.

He cited the statement of one of the survivors who claimed that most of the missing crew members were engineers who were still working on and trying to revive the main engine of the ship when it sank.

“Based on the statement of (one of the survivors), it only took only seven minutes for the ship to totally sink. The engine room was located four stories below and it was a very huge ship,” Gonzalez said.

“Although we remain hopeful that there are still survivors. We are hopeful that they were just carried off somewhere by the current. We may resume rescue operations again if [we] see any [indication],” Gonzalez added.

He said some PCG personnel remain on standby in Bolinao, hoping to get feedback from fishermen and passing vessels plying the route about sightings of survivors.

“Actually they are still considered missing, but the probability of seeing them alive is really very slim,” he said.

The official said it may be impossible to retrieve the bodies of the crewmen from the wreck due to the depth of the area where the vessel sank.

“It’s around 1,038 fathoms deep. Multiply that by six, so it’s around 6,000 feet,” he said.

He said that as of Tuesday, the PCG has already turned over the survivors to the Bureau of Immigration, along with the ship agent representative.

“Their repatriation is now being processed,” the PCG official said.

Asked about the possibility of resurfacing the sunken vessel, Gonzalez said the process could be strenuous. “The area where it sank was very deep. We are also encountering big waves and gale-force winds in the area.”

Meanwhile, Gonzalez said they are monitoring the traces of oil at the site where the Aurita Bauxite sank.

“We are monitoring it, apparently the movement of oil spill is palabas ng bansa (away from the country), palabas ng West Philippine Sea,” he said. “It’s actually just an oil slick … I think it’s best that we let nature do the rest to let the oil thin out and evaporate.”

The Myanmar vessel sank in the waters off Cape Bolinao at 11:30 p.m. Saturday after it encountered engine trouble while on its way to Indonesia.

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