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250K liters of oil threaten to spill out of sunken ship

June 26, 2008

By Jojo Robles
Mla. Standard Today
June 25, 2008

AN OIL spill from the Sulpicio Lines ferry that capsized June 21 with more than 800 people on board could destroy coastal areas and aquatic life around Sibuyan and nearby islands and take years to clean up.

The m/v Princess of the Stars was carrying 250,000 liters of bunker fuel in its hold when it capsized near Sibuyan Island in Romblon at the height of typhoon Frank early Saturday, sources close to the investigation of the sinking of the ferry told Standard Today.

A team of investigators who flew over to inspect the overturned hull at close range said small quantities of the fuel had already leaked out of the disabled vessel, indicating that most of the toxic cargo was intact.

“There is evidence that some of the fuel is leaking around the vessel,” a source told Standard Today.

“But if the ship breaks up on its own or is forced open by rescuers looking for survivors, the oil could leak, damaging the environment and destroying the livelihood of fisherfolk in the area for years to come.”

Earlier, rescuers announced that they were planning to force open the hull of the Princess in an effort to find survivors. As of yesterday, only about 48 of 849 passengers and crew on the ship had survived, authorities said.

Divers retrieved only bodies from the capsized vessel yesterday and the Coast Guard said more were likely to be brought in over the next hours.

“Most of the bodies were floating inside. They were trapped when the seven-story ship suddenly tilted and capsized,” Navy spokesman Edgard Arevalo said in a radio interview.

In August 2006, the m/t Solar 1 sank in waters near Guimaras Island off Iloilo, carrying down with it 1.8 million liters of bunker fuel and triggering the country’s worst oil spill.

The Solar 1 carried more fuel than the Princess, but the tanker’s dangerous cargo sank at least 700 meters in the water and several kilometers off the coast of the nearest island, minimizing its effects on the environment, the same source said.

(Click here for the rest.)

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