Two men who struggled to shore after a passenger ferry capsized in Philippines during Typhoon Fengshen said Sunday hundreds of people may have died when they were trapped inside.
The storm left at least 155 dead, submerging entire communities and setting off landslides, said Sen. Richard Gordon, head of the national Red Cross, but there were concerns the death toll would jump dramatically.
The 72 people listed as missing did not include the more than 740 passengers and crew aboard the MV Princess of Stars, and worried relatives wept as they waited for news. Gordon said he has asked U.S. authorities for help in finding anyone who might still be alive inside the ferry and was told “they are going to try very, very hard.”
A rescue ship battling huge waves and strong winds reached the ferry Sunday, one end jutting out of the water upside-down, more than 24 hours after it lost radio contact.
There was no sign of survivors, and only four people who were on board were known to have reached shore alive. “They haven't seen anyone. They're scouring the area. They're studying the direction of the waves to determine where survivors may have drifted,” coast guard spokesman Lt. Senior Grade Arman Balilo said.
Villagers found six bodies, including a man and a woman who had bound themselves together, along with children's slippers and life jackets that washed ashore nearby.
Officials were checking reports that a large number of survivors might have reached one nearby island and that a lift raft was spotted off another, coast guard spokesman Cmdr. Antonio Cuasito said.
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 am on Saturday. About 30 minutes later, the ship tilted as elderly people and children fell on the rain-slickened deck.
The ferry initially ran aground a few miles (kilometers) off central Sibuyan island Saturday, then capsized, said Mayor Nanette Tansingco of Sibuyan's San Fernando.