Filipino families of sunken ship crew plead for search to resume

September 18, 2020 - 11:01 AM
A coast guard vessel rescues a Filipino crewman off Amami Oshima island in this handout photo taken on Sept. 2 and provided by the 10th Regional Coast Guard headquarters yesterday. Japan’s coast guard said one person was found during a search for a cargo ship with 43 people on board after receiving a distress call from the East China Sea during a typhoon. (AFP/File)

MANILA —Families of 39 Filipino crewmen who were aboard a cattle ship that sank during a typhoon are pleading for a search to continue and to expand into uninhabited islands and nearby waters, two weeks after their vessel capsized off Japan.

In tears during an online news conference, family members urged authorities to resume a massive search effort, after Japan’s coastguard suspended its rescue last week.

Of the ship’s 43 crew, three were rescued – all Filipinos – but one later died after being found unconscious. Thirty-six Filipinos, two New Zealanders and two Australians are missing.

“We are getting frustrated not knowing where they are,” said Liberty Seneres, wife of chief engineer, Aristotle Sabillena.

“We are worried. But there still is hope that they are still alive.”

The group called on the Philippine government to resume the search and expand it to waters off South Korea, Taiwan and China.

They urged the manpower agency that supplied the crew, LMA Korpil, to send resources for a rescue mission and the ship’s owner, the United Arab Emirates-based Gulf Navigation Holding PJSC, to start private operations or deploy professional divers.

Gulf Livestock 1, which left Napier Port bound for China carrying nearly 6,000 cattle, sank on Sept. 2 after Typhoon Maysak struck at sea.

“We also believe there are some survivors – if not all – either on those rafts or nearby uninhabited islands just waiting for someone to care enough to keep searching. But we must act now,” said Fredelyn Addug-Sanchez, sister of ship captain Dante Addug.

She said for those unable to escape, recovery of their remains would at least provide some closure.

“Let’s work together and bring our boys home, they are worth our effort,” she said.

The Philippine foreign ministry, Korpil and Gulf Navigation did not immediately respond to requests for comment. —Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty