Philippines: Ferry capsizes with 258 people on board

Four dead and 88 missing after boat overturns in storm 

Chris Baynes
Thursday 21 December 2017 09:00
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Filipino port workers wait for passenger vessel at a port in the coastal town of Infanta, Quezon province, in November 2016
Filipino port workers wait for passenger vessel at a port in the coastal town of Infanta, Quezon province, in November 2016

At least four people have died after a ferry with 251 passengers on board capsized off the coast of the Philippines.

More than 160 people have been plucked alive from rough waters but 88 remained missing after the Mercraft 3 vessel sank while sailing from the east coast town of Real to the island of Polillo in stormy weather. Seven crew had also been on board the ferry.

Army helicopters and coastguard boats were sent to the capsized vessel, about nine miles off the coast of Quezon province, but rescue operations were hampered by bad weather and huge waves caused by a typhoon.

Survivors said the boat had been lashed by strong winds and large waves about two hours after setting off in calm weather.

Donel Jade Mendiola, told radio station DZMM: "The vessel came to a halt and started taking in water in the front side. The passengers dashed to one side and the ferry started to sink."

He said the ferry's departure had been briefly delayed by bad weather but conditions had improved before it left Real.

A flotilla of fishing boats were helping efforts to save passengers from the sinking ferry.

Coastguard spokesman Armand Balilo said the vessel, which had the capacity to carry 286 people, had not been overloaded. He said a distress call had been issued by the ferry before noon local time.

"There is a big possibility the accident was caused by the bad weather," he said.

A flotilla of fishing boats were helping coastguard and navy vessels in the rescue operation. Many of the survivors were found floating in the rough sea.

Many of those rescued were taken to Dinahican village in Infanta, where Quezon officials were transporting clothes, food, water and medicine.

Boat accidents are common in the Philippines, where frequent storms, badly maintained vessels and weak enforcement of safety regulations have been blamed for past accidents at sea.

In 2015, 59 people died when the ferry Kim Nervana capsized off the coast of Leyte. The owner, captain and crew were later charged with murder.

The country is currently braced for Tropical Storm Tembin, expected to hit land on the southern land of Mindanao late on Thursday or early on Friday.

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