Rescuers work against time to raise what remains of the ill-fated M/V Kim Nirvana-B as search continues for passengers still missing. (Photo by VBP)

Death toll now 44 as rescuers search for 25 missing in Ormoc sea tragedy

Ormoc News – There are now 44 confirmed dead in yesterday’s sea tragedy in Ormoc. (UPDATE – Latest reports this morning now set the death toll at 56)

The Philippine Red Cross here has confirmed at 5:30 in the afternoon today the recovery of more bodies, including that of one unidentified male foreigner, as search continues for 25 passengers still missing after the motorized vessel they were riding capsized off Ormoc bay around 12 noon yesterday.

The Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy with the help of the local government have brought two massive cranes in an effort to raise the capsized MV Kim Nirvana-B that has been drawn nearer to the seaport.

The retrieval of the ill-fated vessel itself is expected to finally bring to a close the frantic search and retrieval operation being conducted off Ormoc bay as the Philippine Coast Guard begins its probe of the incident today.

Pilar, Camotes Vice–Mayor Eli Borinaga, said that the local government of Pilar is helping relatives identify the victims. Borinaga also thanked the Tzu-Chi Foundation for giving immediate financial assistance to the families of the victims as early as yesterday afternoon.

‘Each survivor and families of those who perished including those admitted in hospitals were given P5,000 each in cash without question by Tzu-Chi and we really deeply appreciate their compassion under these trying circumstances’, Borinaga said.

Meanwhile, the City Government of Ormoc is helping families of the victims to process the bodies of the dead through the local funeral homes in Ormoc.

‘Every casualty will undergo proper identification and post mortem examination by SOCO and city health office, and will be preserved by the funeral homes before they are released to the families’, said city councillor Vince Rama adding that all the deceased will be given caskets.

‘We are also going to help the bereaved families in transporting their loved ones back to their hometown’, Rama also said.

Asked who will pay for the embalming and preservation services being provided by local funeral homes, ‘We leave it to the good spirits if they will repay our benevolence’, Rama said.

A marine casualty investigation is now being conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard as to the true cause of the tragedy.

Some survivor and eye-witness accounts hinted at potential human error when the vessel allegedly made an abrupt turn in rough sea conditions. Reports that improper loading of cargoes may have affected the stability of the vessel are also being looked into.