Death toll in Philippines shipwreck climbs to 63

Manila, Aug 20 (EFE).- Philippine authorities raised to 63 the number of deaths in last week's shipwreck of the MV St. Thomas Aquinas ferryboat, which continues to spill fuel in the central region of the archipelago.

The Philippines Coast Guard said that another 63 people are still missing, and that divers continue their rescue work in waters off the town of Talisay.

The ferry, which had sailed with 870 people aboard, took just minutes to go under after colliding with the merchant ship MV Sulpicio Express, which suffered some damage but did not sink.

The respective ship's captains have blamed each other for last Friday's collision.

Authorities are investigating the causes of the accident, though a preliminary report indicates that it was the merchant ship that crashed into the stern of the MV St. Thomas Aquinas.

Added to the human drama was the environmental disaster of the ferryboat's fuel contaminating the waters off Cebu province, popular with tourists for its beaches and scuba diving.

The company that owns the Sulpicio Express has a record of serious accidents, including the 1987 shipwreck of the Philippine ferry Doña Paz, in which 4,317 people died, the biggest accident in the history of commercial navigation.

Dozens of people die in the Philippines each year in accidents at sea caused by bad weather, failure to comply with safety regulations, poor vessel maintenance and overloading.