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Maritime Disasters: Dona Paz

May 5th, 2016 by Piper Smith

On December 20, 1987, this Philippine passenger ferry, en route from the Philippine island of Leyte to Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, collided with an oil tanker, caught fire and sank, killing as many as 4,000 people. The Dona Paz was built in 1963 in Japan. The ship collided at night in the Tablas Strait with the Vector– a tanker carrying more than 8,000 barrels of petroleum products. The Vector’s cargo burst into flames and the fire quickly spread to the Dona Paz; both vessels had eventually sank.

Passenger ferries are common in the Philippines, an archipelago of some 7,100 islands with a weak record of nautical safety. At the time of the collision, the Dona Paz, later referred to as “Asia’s Titanic,” was overcrowded. Although, the exact number of people the vessel was carrying is unknown, the total might have been more than double the legal capacity.