Philippine ferry search halted amid threat of hazardous chemicals
Diving and retrieval operations inside a capsized ferry in the Philippines were halted on Friday after it was found that the vessel was carrying a shipment of hazardous chemicals, the dpa reported.
Search teams were recalled from the submerged wreckage of the MV Princess of the Stars while experts determined if there is contamination from the cargo of 10,000 metric tons of pesticide.
Experts are also studying a way to remove the cargo of endosulfan, a pesticide that is harmful to humans and marine life, from the sunken ferry before search and retrieval operations resumed.
"We aborted the retrieval operations because of the pesticide inside the ship," Vice President Noli De Castro said. "It's dangerous and no divers are allowed in the area now."
The Princess of the Stars was carrying 862 passengers when it capsized in storm-whipped seas off Sibuyan Island, 300 kilometres south of Manila, on June 21.
At least 124 people aboard the ship have been confirmed killed, while 56 survived the accident, according to the Coast Guard.
Authorities have admitted that the chances of finding more survivors from among the more than 680 missing people were getting slimmer by the day.