LEGAZPI CITY, 19June2013 (PNA) – The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Bicol regional office here on Monday said search and rescue teams had terminated the three-day search and rescue (SAR) operations for the seven remaining missing passengers of the MV Lady of Mount Carmel, a roll on-roll-off passenger-cargo vessel that sank early Friday morning at the vicinity of Aguja Point, Burias Island, in Masbate.
Bernardo Rafael Alejandro, OCD regional director, said they had officially ended the SAR operations on the recommendation of the commanders of the Philippine Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force Tactical Operation Group V (TOG-5) composite group that carried out the operations.
“The SAR mission has been terminated on the ground that it had been carried out extensively for the past four days, surpassing the normal 48-hour SAR for missing victims,” Alejandro said.
Besides, he added, there will be bad weather for the next three days due to Tropical Depression “Emong,” which would endanger the lives of members of the rescue teams.
In an assessment conference here Monday morning, Commodore Aaron Reconquista, PCG commander in Bicol, said “I believe we have used up our best efforts since the first day of operation and so far our efforts have failed to find those missing.”
Alejandro said that as SAR operations ended, the search teams decided to shift their operations from SAR to search and retrieval wherein local SAR land, sea and air assets have been alerted at the community level to monitor if there are floating bodies or debris that have been sighted in the shorelines of coastal villages of Aroroy town.
When asked if there is any time frame for the search and retrieval operation, Reconquista said that as a normal practice, it will be an indefinite SAR operation as it all will depend on how the missing bodies, debris and pollutants will show up.
At the assessment meeting, Alejandro said at least five air assets (two islander planes and three helicopters) from TOG 5, Navy and PCG; four sea vessels from the Navy and PCG, and two motor bancas from local Bantay Dagat and BFAR were used during the three-day SAR operations.
He said the search teams have covered some 400 square kilometers of sea area in searching for the missing bodies while the air assets (planes and helicopters) also consumed 15 hours of flying time in the search.
Reconquista said the MV Lady of Mount Carmel was carrying a total of 70 passengers, 57 of whom were in the manifest while 13 were not listed.
Two elderly women died and seven passengers remain missing when the 94-ton Ro-Ro vessel sank on Friday morning off the waters of Aguja point, some 11 nautical miles from the port of gold-rich Aroroy town. (PNA)