Manila, Philippines A group of 28 ferry passengers and crew washed ashore after drifting at sea for more than a day from the site where a typhoon capsized their ship and left most of the hundreds aboard missing and presumed dead, officials said today.
Manila's DZBB radio said the survivors, 20 male passengers, four women and four crewmen, drifted at sea for more than 24 hours wearing their life jackets, reaching Mulanay township in eastern Quezon province late Sunday. Coast guard chief Vice Adm. Wilfredo Tamayo announced early today that they had been found, raising the total number of survivors to 38. All were discovered after making it to land.
Tamayo said rescuers may have to bore a hole in the ship to allow divers access to areas where many aboard the ferry were believed to have been trapped.
Coast guard frogmen who managed to get to the stricken ship got no response when they rapped on the hull with metal instruments, then had to give up late Sunday due to the strong waves. The ship carried more than 740 passengers and crew.
"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.
Rescuers hoped to get inside with U.S. assistance requested by the Philippine Red Cross. Typhoon Fengshen has killed at least 163 people across the sprawling archipelago, setting off landslides and floods, and knocking out electricity.
Six bodies, including those of a man and woman who had bound themselves together, have washed ashore, along with children's slippers and life jackets.
About two dozen relatives went to the Manila office of ferry owner Sulpicio Lines. Some wept as they waited for news.
"I'm very worried. I need to know what happened to my family," said Felino Farionin, his voice cracking. His wife, son and four in-laws were on the ferry, which was going from Manila to Cebu.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo talked to officials in a teleconference aired live on nationwide radio Sunday, scolding coast guard officials for allowing the ferry to leave Manila late Friday despite the bad weather.
Reynato Lanoria, a janitor on the ship, estimated about 100 people could have survived, "but the others were trapped inside."
"I think they are all dead by now," he told DZMM radio after making it to shore by jumping in the water and reaching a life raft.
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 rain-slickened deck.
Passenger Jesus Gica also worried that many people were trapped below when the ship listed.
"There were many of us who jumped overboard, but we were separated because of the big waves," he said.