Hunt continues as Philippines ferry sinks


Three people are confirmed dead as rescuers search for at least three more after a ferry sank in heavy seas off the central Philippines.


At least 110 people have been rescued after the Maharlika II ferry foundered on Saturday night, said President Benigno Aquino’s spokeswoman Abigail Valte.

Confusion surrounded the number of people aboard the stricken ferry, Valte said on government radio.

“They are trying to get a more precise number of the people who were on the vessel,” she said.

Valte said the captain had told the coastguard 116 people were on board when the ferry sank in bad weather, in contrast with earlier reports of 84 passengers and crew on the manifest.

Valte said rescue boats were still searching for survivors at the scene of the sinking, about six nautical miles from the small island of Panaon, about 680km south of Manila.

The manifest listed fewer people than the number so far rescued, but it is common practice in the Philippines for some passengers to board without being listed.

The ferry was hit by huge waves during bad weather worsened by the approach of Typhoon Kalmaegi to the northern Philippines, civil defence officials said earlier.

The ship went down as the coastguard and private boats rushed to the aid of survivors.

Poorly maintained, loosely regulated ferries are the backbone of maritime travel in the sprawling archipelago.

But this has led to frequent accidents that have claimed hundreds of lives in recent years, including the world’s worst peacetime maritime disaster in 1987 when the Dona Paz ferry collided with an oil tanker, leaving more than 4,300 dead.

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