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September 8, 2009

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30 hours: woman survives in sea

A PHILIPPINES air force helicopter yesterday plucked to safety a woman who drifted for about 30 hours in choppy seas after the sinking of a ferry that left nine dead. Only one of the nearly 1,000 people on board is now unaccounted for.

Housewife Lita Casumlum, 39, was found bobbing with a life jacket about 13 kilometers from where the 7,269-ton Superferry 9 sank on Sunday. Rear Admiral Alex Pama, who helped supervise the rescue, called it "a miracle."

"She has been drifting amid huge waves for a long time without any food or water," Pama said.

Casumlum was reported to be weak and frail after her ordeal. A local TV network aired footage of the woman, her face sunburned. She was taken to a military hospital for treatment.

A massive air, land and sea search will continue for the lone missing passenger, officials said.

Coast guard chief Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo said an investigation will begin later this week to find out why the vessel sank off the southern province of Zamboanga del Norte province.

The Philippines has suffered numerous maritime disasters. Officials said yesterday the successful rescue effort this time was largely due to help given by two passing cargo ships and military bombers and gunboats used to fight militants that are based about 70 kilometers away from where the ferry sank.

Captain Jose Yap, who survived, issued the "abandon ship" order after the ferry started listing. The vessel, built in 1986 in Japan, sank six hours later, the coast guard said.


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