Philippines: Toxic cargo contained in capsized ferry
14 July 2008
14 July 2008 - On 21 June, a passenger ferry carrying 849 passengers capsized in the Sibuyan Sea off the coast of the province of Romblom during the Typhoon Fengshen which raged over the Philippines. Only 56 passengers survived the accident. The ferry was also carrying 10 metric tons of the pesticide endosulfan and unknown quantities of 4 other hazardous chemicals (metamidaphos, carbofuran, propineb and niclosamide). This toxic cargo, which is still believed to be aboard the sunken vessel, has raised concerns regarding potential health risks to the divers involved in search and retrieval operations, to the residents of the nearby coastal communities and to the public in general.
Following a request from national authorities, a joint European Union – United Nations (JEU/OCHA) expert team was deployed to the Philippines on 10 July to assess the situation.
WHO has provided technical advice to the Philippines Department of Health (DOH) and facilitated the identification of international reference laboratories for the testing of biological and environmental samples. WHO has also coordinated with JEU/OCHA, International Maritime Organization and other international bodies in order to give more comprehensive logistic and technical assistance in the long-term management of the possible health and environmental hazards brought by this maritime disaster. Finally, WHO has also been active in providing recommendations on relevant health information to be communicated to the public.