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Crew rescued after second ship sinks

The crew of a cargo ship that sank in Philippines waters was pulled to safety on Monday, as rescue efforts continued for survivors of a ferry tragedy that left nine people dead, officials said.

world Updated: Sep 07, 2009 10:43 IST

The crew of a cargo ship that sank in Philippines waters was pulled to safety on Monday, as rescue efforts continued for survivors of a ferry tragedy that left nine people dead, officials said.

In the second maritime incident in as many days, the Panamanian-registered MV Hera, carrying four South Korean and 15 Filipino sailors, went down in the central Philippines as it was making its way to China, the coast guard said.

The Hera began taking on water on Sunday, and the crew had been drifting for several hours in a life raft when rescuers plucked them from the sea off Eastern Samar, the coast guard said.

"The vessel was reportedly taking in water because of engine trouble," coast guard chief Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo said on local television.

He said naval and air forces had been called in to help the coast guard.

Meanwhile, rescue efforts continued about 400 kilometres (250 miles) to the southwest for at least two people from the Superferry 9 that got into trouble before dawn on Sunday with nearly 1,000 passengers and crew on board.

Nine people were confirmed killed, with 957 people rescued from the ferry, which began listing sharply -- for reasons that remain unexplained -- before sinking a few hours later.

Tamayo said coast guard vessels were scouring the waters off the southern Philippines' coast for two people believed missing, based on the ship's manifest.

However, he said he could not discount the possibility that there could have been more people aboard the vessel, which was licensed to carry over 1,000 passengers.

And while illegal, it is also a common practice among Philippine shipping companies to allow people aboard without listing them on the manifest.

"Our tally here indicates that we have so far rescued a total of 957 passengers, while there have been reported nine fatalities," Tamayo said.

He said the figures were still "subject to further verification". The number of missing dropped dramatically from the 63 given by the coast guard on Sunday night to two on Monday after information was collated from all the vessels that had taken part in the rescue.

Despite relief at the way the coast guard, fishing boats and military vessels had quickly combined to rescue most of the people on board the ferry, harrowing accounts of the disaster emerged.

Crizel Galero, 17, was with her two-year-old nephew when she was ordered to get into a life-raft before the ferry sank.

Galero recounted how a man who had volunteered to help them into the raft dropped the toddler into the water.

"We lost the boy. He drowned," she told local television in between sobs at the Zamboanga city ferry terminal, where the shocked survivors were taken.

An investigation into the cause of the accident was to start Tuesday, as questions continued to be asked about what could have gone wrong for the 23-year-old Japanese-built vessel in relatively calm weather.

Ferry travel is an extremely cheap and popular form of transport in the Philippines, an archipelago of over 7,100 islands, but it is also notoriously dangerous.

Ageing ships, overloading and badly trained crew members are often cited as causes of deadly sea accidents in the Philippines.

In June last year, more than 800 people perished when the Princess of the Stars capsized after setting sail in the middle of a storm off the central island of Sibuyan.

The world's deadliest maritime disaster in peacetime occurred in the Philippines in December 1987, when an oil tanker collided with the MV Dona Paz, killing more than 4,000 holidaymakers.