Most of the people around the world thinks that the sinking of the Titanic is the worst maritime disaster ever, but there is a disaster worse than the popular Titanic Case. It is the tragedy of the MV Doña Paz, which will always haunt the Philippines.
The MV Doña Paz was a Philippines-registered passenger ferry that sank after colliding with the oil tanker MT Vector on December 20, 1987, 5 days before Christmas. With an estimated death toll of 4,386 people and only 24 survivors, it was the deadliest peacetime maritime disaster in history.
Doña Paz was en route from Leyte island to Manila. The vessel was seriously overcrowded, with at least 2000 passengers not listed on the manifest. In addition, it was claimed that the ship carried no radio and that the life-jackets were locked away. But official blame was directed at the MT Vector, which was found to be unseaworthy and operating without a license, lookout or qualified master.
On December 20, 1987, at 06:30, Philippine Standard Time, the Doña Paz left from Tacloban City, Leyte, for the City of Manila, with a stopover at Catbalogan City, Samar. The vessel was expected to arrive in Manila at 04:00 the following day, and it was reported that it last made radio contact at around 20:00. However, subsequent reports indicated that the Doña Paz had no radio.
While most of the passengers slept, the Doña Paz collided with MT Vector, an oil tanker en route from Bataan to Masbate. The Vector was carrying 8,800 US barrels of gasoline and other petroleum products owned by Caltex Philippines.
Upon collision, the Vector‘s cargo ignited and caused a fire on the ship that spread onto the Doña Paz. Many passengers were burned alive. Survivors recalled sensing the crash and an explosion, causing panic on the vessel. Survivors claimed that the lights onboard had gone out minutes after the collision, and that the crew were running around in panic with the other passengers.
The survivors were forced to jump off the ship and swim among charred bodies in flaming waters around the ship. The Doña Paz sank within two hours of the collision, while the Vector sank within four hours. Both ships sank in about 545 meters (1,788 ft) of water in the shark-infested Tablas Strait.
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It reportedly took eight hours before Philippine maritime authorities learned of the accident, and another eight hours to organize search-and-rescue operations.
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