'Philippine ferry company suspended after disaster' | world | Hindustan Times
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'Philippine ferry company suspended after disaster'

The Philippine government bars all vessels belonging to a company involved in the weekend ferry disaster from leaving port, blaming the firm for the sinking.

world Updated: Jun 23, 2008 20:00 IST

The Philippine government on Monday barred all vessels belonging to a company involved in the weekend ferry disaster from leaving port, blaming the firm for the sinking.

Transport undersecretary Elena Bautista claimed Sulpicio Lines was responsible for the sinking of the ferry with more than 700 people on board, and all of its vessels would be suspended from sailing until further notice.

"Definitely Sulpicio Lines is responsible here," Bautista told reporters.

The MV Princess of the Stars went down at around noon Saturday (0400 GMT) several kilometres off the coast of central Sibuyan Island after being battered by huge waves when its engines failed, officials said.

Thirty two survivors have been found so far with hundreds still missing.

President Gloria Arroyo demanded on Sunday to know why the ferry was given clearance to leave Manila on Friday with a typhoon fast approaching.

A coast guard official has said the Princess of the Stars was cleared to leave for Cebu island shortly before the typhoon changed its course.

With the typhoon approaching, the captain was instructed to take shelter and "attempted to do that," the official said.

However, the engine failed and the almost 24,000-tonne vessel was left stranded in waters off Sibuyan's southeast coast.

A survivor has told how the ship sank in 15 minutes.

A spokesman for Sulpicio Lines has refused to comment on the possible cause of the disaster, saying the company was concentrating on finding survivors. Sulpicio has 22 passenger ships which also carry some cargo, according to its website.