The number of people killed in the ship collision off Talisay, Cebu, rose to 52 Monday as authorities continued to battle with bad weather and an oil spill scouring the seas for more victims, a Coast Guard official said.

Technical divers recovered 11 bodies Monday morning near the area where the ill-fated M/V St. Thomas Aquinas sank, raising the number of fatalities to 52, Cmdr. Winiel Azcuna, Coast Guard Station Cebu commander, said.

“They (divers) were not yet able to totally penetrate the vessel but those people (11 bodies) were were trapped by debris dun sa labas ng barko,” Azcuna said in a phone interview.

The diving operations, however, were temporarily halted 11 a.m. as bad weather again posed a threat on the divers, he said.

“Medyo makulimlim, wala namang ulan, however, the wind is very strong and the waves are quite high. It’s very dangerous po para sa ating mga divers,” Azcuna said.

“They will resume, hopefully, weather permitting, this afternoon,” he added.

Amid the search, fuel from the St. Thomas Aquinas spilled and has now spread to different areas, including Cordova, which has already declared a state of calamity, Lt. Jim Alagao, public affairs officer of the Armed Forces’ Central Command, said.

“Around 25,000 liters to 30,000 liters na po ‘yung lumabas galing sa barko,” Azcuna said, citing information from a company hired by the St. Thomas Aquinas’ owner, 2Go Group Inc., to help contain the oil.

Members of the Coast Guard’s Marine Environment Protection Unit and private firm Malayan Towage were still trying to contain the oil spill Monday, he said. (John Roson)

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