DUMAGUETE CITY — Strong waves spawned by tropical depression Auring prevented a Cebu-bound passenger vessel from immediately docking, but all 228 passengers — many of them students returning to this university town from the holidays — were rescued unharmed, authorities said.
“Auring,” the first weather disturbance of the year, slammed across Davao Oriental at midnight Wednesday and plodded across Northern Mindanao.
It took rescuers seven hours to bring 194 adults, 11 infants and 23 children to dry land on board life rafts.
The MV Zamboanga Ferry of the Cebu-based George and Peter Lines arrived from Zamboanga City and was docking about 9 a.m. at the Dumaguete port where it was stopping en route to Cebu.
Strong winds blew it off course and brought it closer to Dumaguete’s Rizal Boulevard about 15 meters from the port, said Capt. Anelito Gabisan, deputy commander of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Central Visayas District.
Initial efforts to drag the 850-ton boat to deeper waters to enable it to restart its engines failed after the ropes tied to a forklift broke.
“Because of the rough seas, the Zamboanga Ferry couldn’t stick to the pier. It had ropes but the situation was unmanageable,” CPO Robin Caluscusin of Coast Guard Station Dumaguete said.
Georgia Felice Chiongbian-Rama, George and Peter Lines vice president, in a press statement, denied that the ship ran aground.
She said all 228 passengers were disembarked to safety. Many of them were students of Dumaguete’s four universities who were returning from their Christmas break.
“There is no truth to some reports that this was caused by engine failure or that the ship ran aground.
Otherwise the vessel would not have been able to maneuver out of the port area. The only cause of this incident is the unexpected, sudden bad weather which was only classified as a typhoon after the incident,” said Rama.
She said signal number 1 was raised over Dumaguete only at 10 a.m.
The vessel was already maneuvering to dock at Pier 4 of the Dumaguete Port at 9 a.m. when gusts of 34 kilometers per hour cut the mooring lines and made it difficult for the ship to dock because the wind and waves were pushing the vessel to the pier, she said.
“To avoid collision with the pier, Capt. Roland Villarin quickly maneuvered the vessel out of the port area and out of harm’s way to secure all passengers and crew on board and to wait until it was safe to dock once the weather subsided,” said Rama.
The rescued passengers were given first aid at the Boulevard and were brought to the passenger terminal of the Philippine Ports Authority.
“We were so afraid for our lives a while ago. Now, I can say we’re all OK,” said a grandmother from Manjuyod town, who was traveling with her three grandchildren.
The ship captain recommended that they wait out the storm’s fury and dock only after the winds and waves had subsided.
Floods triggered by “Auring” sent 90 families fleeing to safer ground in Dipolog City, the National Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said.
An unidentified boy gathering driftwood was swept away in a swollen river and was declared missing, according to Mayor Edgardo Timbol of Kapalong in Davao del Norte.
According to Capt. Rolando Punzalan, the coast guard commander in Cebu, five vessels canceled their voyage due to rough seas.
Fishermen were warned not to venture out to sea but two fishermen were reported missing in waters off barangay Tuyom, Carcar City, southern Cebu.
The missing were identified as Ruben Q. Plarisan,44 and Jessie Alcober,32, both residents of barangay Tuyom.
The motor boat boat caretaker Feliciano Tamayo,57, told police that both fishermen were last seen past 3 a.m. when they went fishing. /Correspondents Christine Emily L. Pantaleon, Jhunnex Napallacan, Joy Cherry Quito, Carine M. Asutilla, Reporter Aileen Garcia-Yap and Inquirer