About 500 bodies wait submerged in a Philippine ferry –– ironically named the Princess of the Stars –– until divers and authorities feel it is safe to proceed. The ferry capsized en route to Manila in June after being hit by a typhoon, killing an estimated 750 people. Only 56 people survived the accident, while most of those who didn’t are still trapped underwater.
Authorities are wary about sending divers down to explore the ferry’s hold due to a number of toxic chemicals onboard. A newspaper story from the region reports that one of the main concerns is a toxic pesticide, endosulfan, manufactured in Israel, and originating from an Israeli port.
An environment group — EcoWaste coalition — has urged the government to ship the toxic pesticide back to Israel. The group said the chemical poses a grave threat to its handlers, transporters and members of the community where it will be stored.
Authorities in the Philippines are making sure it gets shipped back. Del Monte, a fruit production company best known for its bananas and pineapples, imported the endosulfan for its pineapple plantation in Bukidnon. It’s not such an innocent chemical and has been banned in the United States this past year; and considered the culprit that has caused a plague of deformities in developing nations where it is being used widely. See more on deformities in India here. And a scientific paper on its effect on salamanders, an indicator species (here).
Not mentioned in the article –– if the endosulfan originated in Israel, it was likely supplied by Makhteshim-Agan (see this wiki entry), one of the largest producers of this material in the world. Some 400 drums of it are being shipped back to Israel, reports the article. Meanwhile, analysts are advising investors to purchase shares in Makhteshim-Agan, while talks stir about a foreign acquisition of Makhteshim-Agan. An explosion happened there last year, in Ramat Hovav’s industrial zone, threatening lives.
Recovery of the chemicals started on September 30 and is expected to be complete by the end of October. At that point, teams will go into the ferry and the bodies will be removed.
Bayer CropScience (according to Wikipedia also produces endosulfan) had its own crop chemicals on board –– Antracol WP70, Tamaron 600SL, Trap 70WP and Puerza GR3 –– but said the chemicals would disintegrate when hit by sunlight.
Sounds like the backdrop for a new “Constant Gardener” style film, if you ask me.