20 Rescued From Burning Ferry Near Sabah

July 24, 2007 at 6:13 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Federal Rhine is seen in this undated photograph transiting up-bound in the Welland Canal in Canada. The cargo ship and a Singaporean tanker, Alba, have rescued 20 people from a burning Filipino ferry Tuesday July 24, 2007 off the southern Philippine island of Tawi-Tawi near Sabah, says Senior Chief Petty Officer Rodrigo Devero, commander of the Coast Guard in Tawi-Tawi island.

JOLO ISLAND (Mindanao Examiner / 24 Jul) – Philippine Coast Guard said 20 people were rescued Tuesday from a burning Filipino ferry off the southern island of Tawi-Tawi near the Sabah border.

Two foreign vessels – a cargo ship and a tanker – spotted the burning ML Katrina and rescued all 14 passengers and six crewmen, Senior Chief Petty Officer Rodrigo Devero, commander of the Coast Guard in Tawi-Tawi island, said.

Devero said a passing Barbadian cargo ship, Federal Rhine, and Singaporean tanker Alba, spotted the burning ferry at around 9.55 a.m. and rescued all its passengers.

He said his team rented a boat to pick up the rescued passengers from the two ships in the middle of the sea. “The cargo (ship) and the tanker are too big for the port of Tawi-Tawi to handle and that’s why we picked up the rescued passengers at sea,” Devero told the Mindanao Examiner by phone from Tawi-Tawi island.

“All the passengers are alright and we are thankful to the crew of the Federal Rhine and Alba for their heroic deeds,” he said.

He said they will investigate the cause of the fire. “We are yet to speak to the boat’s captain and the rest of the crew and also get testimonies from the passengers,” he said.

Devero said they have reports that the ferry illegally picked up passengers and cargo in Sabah, Malaysia and was heading to Tawi-Tawi when the fire broke out aboard.

“We have reports the ML Katrina came from Sandakan in Sabah and heading home when the fire broke out. We will look into these reports. Some boats are allegedly entering Sabah to pick up or bring illegal Filipino workers,” he said.

Thousands of illegal Filipinos have been arrested in Sabah since early this year after spending some time in jails. Many of those arrested had illegally crossed Sabah – despite a strict government campaign – by boat from Tawi-Tawi island to work in construction sites.

Others were duped by illegal recruiters who promised them work in hotels and resorts in Malaysia, but ended up without jobs and money and had been forced to work in palm oil plantations under constant fear of being arrested.

Malaysia has continued its crackdown on foreigners staying illegally in the oil-rich state, just 4 hours by boat from the Filipino island of Sitangkay off Tawi-Tawi.

Malaysia began a crackdown on up to 500,000 illegal foreign workers since 2005 and conducting searches that extended from construction sites in Kuala Lumpur to oil palm plantations in Sabah. The round-up usually involved police, immigration and volunteer squads.

Many of the deportees were Muslims from the southern Philippines who had lived for years in Sabah.

The Malaysian government had previously given amnesty that allowed illegal immigrants to leave the country with a promise they could return as legal workers once they received proper documents.

The government’s tough action has enjoyed popular support in Malaysia, where illegal workers, who had numbered more than a million in a country of 24 million people, have been blamed for crime and other social ills.

Kuala Lumpur said the illegal workers do not pay tax and put a heavy burden on state services, such as education and health care, increasing pressure on an already high budget deficit.

Some Filipino deportees said they were herded into overcrowded detention camps before being expelled and others reported tales of abuses inside Malaysian jails. (Mindanao Examiner)

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