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Philippines searches for boat with 5 Americans

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 4:55 a.m. HST, Jan 21, 2011

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine and U.S. coast guards were searching Friday for a sailboat carrying five Americans who left the Pacific island of Guam 15 days ago heading for the central Philippines.

Relatives of the Americans — four men and a woman — alerted the U.S. Coast Guard that the 38-foot catamaran The Pineapple left Guam on Jan. 6 but had not reached its destination on Cebu Island, said Philippine coast guard chief Adm. Wilfredo Tamayo.

Guam, a U.S. territory, is about 1,400 miles east of Cebu, where heavy rains and rough seas have been reported in recent weeks.

Lt. j.g. Justin Valentino, a search and rescue coordinator for the U.S. Coast Guard in Guam, said that while weather conditions make predictions difficult, the journey was supposed to take seven to 10 days.

Tamayo said the U.S. Coast Guard requested a search although it was not clear whether the sailboat had reached Philippine waters. The U.S. Coast Guard was sending an HC-130 Hercules to join the operation.

The Philippines dispatched two aircraft to scour the waters off central and southern islands, and coast guard detachments and passing ships were alerted to be on the lookout for the sailboat, Tamayo said.

"The weather at that time was moderate or rough to very rough," he said.

Philippine spokesman Cmdr. Armand Balilo said the five people included a Filipino-American in the U.S. Air Force. Their identities and hometowns have not been released.

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