MANILA, Philippines Navy and coast guard ships battled huge waves and strong winds today to reach a stranded ferry carrying more than 740 people after Typhoon Fengshen battered the country killing 17.
Rescue vessels aborted an initial attempt Saturday to get to the MV Princess of Stars after it ran aground near Sibuyan island, but efforts resumed amid stormy weather Sunday, coast guard chief Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo said.
Fengshen lashed the central Philippines for about four hours Saturday, setting off landslides and floods, knocking out power and blowing off roofs from houses.
Packing sustained winds of 74 miles per hour and gusts of up to 93 mph, the typhoon shifted course today to the northwest and battered the capital Manila at dawn, chief government forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said.
In southern Maguindanao province, at least 14 people drowned in flash floods Saturday, including 10 who were swept away from riverside homes, said provincial administrator Norie Unas. Five others were missing.
Meanwhile, the 23,824-ton ferry with 626 passengers and 121 crew members on board was "dead in the water" after its engine failed around noon Saturday, Tamayo said.
Port captain Nestor Ponteres said the ferry's owner, Sulpicio Lines, had lost radio contact with the ship and the fate of its passengers remained unknown.
"A lot of efforts have been done to send off rescue boats, but we really can't get through the very rough weather," Tamayo said.
A 50-year-old man and his 10-year-old grandson were killed when a landslide buried their hillside shanty in Cotabato city Saturday, Mayor Muslimin Sema said. Authorities recovered the body of a farmer, one of three people reported missing in neighboring Cotabato province.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo directed the defense and local government departments to stand by for relief and rescue missions before she left for the United States late Saturday.
Officials said neck-deep flood waters had risen further with a high tide, forcing the evacuation of 5,000 people in Sultan Kudarat township in southern Shariff Kabunsuan province, near Cotabato city.
Officials ordered the evacuation of more than 117,000 people from areas prone to floods and landslides in central Albay province. But many returned home by midday Saturday after the typhoon missed the area.
The National Disaster Coordinating Council reported flooding, landslides and power outages caused by toppled power pylons in many areas in the southern and central Philippines. More than 100 domestic flights were canceled because of the typhoon.