By: Gerome Dalipe
“IT WAS the strongest winds I ever felt. I never thought I would survive.”
This is how one of the survivors of an ill-fated motorized passenger banca described his brief ordeal off the waters of Iloilo Strait.
The survivor, a fisherman from Guimaras Island who requested anonymity, said that strong winds caused their banca to capsize a few minutes after they left the Iloilo wharf on Aug. 3.
Two of the capsized bancas – Keziah and Chi-Chi – were bound for Jordan, Guimaras from Iloilo City when the mishap occurred.
“I’ve been a fisherman for a very long time, but I have never encountered such a strong wind in my entire life so far,” the fisherman said in Hiligaynon.
He and 21 other survivors were housed at the Diamond Jubilee Hall in downtown Iloilo on Saturday night.
They were fetched by their local city welfare officers and family members early morning of Sunday.
In an interview, the fisherman said rough seas brought about by the tropical depression made the banca’s maneuverability difficult because of very low visibility and strong wind.
He said he and other passengers of M/B Chi-Chi, which carried 43 passengers with 4 crewmembers, even tried to balance the boat by sitting on the other side of the banca.
But the strong winds still overturned their banca, throwing the passengers and the crew onto the sea.
Personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard rushed to the scene and rescued some of the passengers and crew members.
Of the 87 total passengers who separately boarded the bancas, 25 died at sea while 53 survived, according to the joint disasters response personnel from Guimaras and Iloilo City.
About 9 people are still missing as of yesterday afternoon, according to Guimaras Provincial Government.
M/B Chi-Chi and Keziah capsized off the Iloilo Strait past noon of Aug. 3 due to strong winds and inclement weather caused by tropical depression Hanna.
The third banca, M/B Jenny Vince, capsized past 3 p.m. after authorities reportedly allowed its crew to ferry the passengers from Iloilo wharf to Guimaras.
Meanwhile, a total of 2,201 stranded passengers were transported back to Guimaras Island from Iloilo City as of press time yesterday afternoon via roll-on, roll-off vessels.
The Provincial Government of Guimaras and the City Government of Iloilo jointly assisted the survivors and casualties in the various hospitals and funeral homes in Iloilo City and Guimaras.
Operatives of the Regional Maritime Group and Coast Guard in Western Visayas are still conducting search, rescue, and retrieval operations for the nine missing passengers.
The city and provincial social welfare officers are also monitoring the casualties for financial assistance and stress debriefing of the survivors and the families of the casualties.