Hopes fade of finding ferry survivors

Hopes faded Monday that more survivors would be found in what could be one of the Philippines' worst sea tragedies as rescuers failed to find signs of life inside a capsized ferry that had held more than 800 passengers and crew members when a typhoon struck on Saturday.

Rescue officials said only 38 survivors had been rescued, including 28 passengers and crew members who came ashore Monday after drifting at sea since Saturday.

Thirteen bodies thought to be from the ferry, Princess of the Stars, had been recovered, including nine that washed up on land Monday.

The known dead from the ferry brought the death toll from the typhoon, named Fengshen, to at least 176, the Philippine National Red Cross said. Fengshen, packing winds of up to 121 mph, struck the central and northern Philippines on Saturday, knocking down power lines, causing landslides, flooding rivers, and inundating entire communities.

Divers who beat against the hull of the ferry Monday in search of survivors heard nothing that indicated life.

“We just approached the hull of the ship, we got near and then banged, knocked in order for us to give a sign if ever there are still people inside,” Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo of the coast guard said. “Unfortunately there was no response.”

The Philippine government has asked other countries, particularly the United States, for help in the recovery operations. A U.S. Navy ship from Okinawa, Japan, was expected to arrive early today near Sibuyan island, south of Manila, where the ferry sank.

Officials said helicopters on the Navy ship could help survey the general area for possible survivors.

Elsewhere, officials tried to assess the losses from the typhoon. Iloilo, a central Philippine province, was the worst hit, with fatalities approaching 100 as of Monday, officials said.

Another concern was the welfare of the nearly 70,000 people across the country who were displaced by the typhoon and are now living in evacuation centers.