image image

The Philippines

Search continues for survivors after Philippine ferry accident, leaving at least five people dead

Philippine ferries, which seasonally brave rough seas in the Pacific typhoon belt, are notorious for overloading

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 December, 2017, 12:16pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 December, 2017, 12:16pm

Rescue teams in the Philippines resumed their search for survivors on Friday after a ferry carrying more than 250 passengers capsized, with at least five confirmed dead.

The accident occurred in rough waters off the main island of Luzon on Thursday as the Mercraft 3 keeled over en route to a remote island.

The 206-tonne vessel had been given the green light to sail as Tropical Storm Tembin gathered pace over the southern Philippines nearly a thousand kilometres away, as there were no storm alerts in the local area, the coastguard said. But a survivor told local radio that the ferry was forced to stop at sea due to large waves and strong winds, before it started taking in water from the bow and tipped over.

Filipino ferries, which seasonally brave rough seas in the Pacific typhoon belt, are notorious for overloading.

Some 252 people have so far been pulled to safety, with the death toll up to five.

The coastguard had earlier said only 251 passengers and crew were on board, but confirmed the vessel had a 286-person capacity.

Officials gave no explanation for the discrepancy but acknowledged the boat had carried more than the 251 people listed on its manifest.

Rescuers are yet to determine how many are still missing, Efren Ritual, a rescue official in the town of Infanta, said.

“The search will continue because there are still people here looking for their missing relatives,” he said by telephone.

Local fishing boats and the Philippine navy were assisting in the search, according to the coastguard office in Manila.

The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, is plagued by poor sea transport, with its badly regulated boats and ships prone to overcrowding and accidents.

The latest incident occurred 30 years after another Philippine ferry, the Dona Paz, collided with an oil tanker in a pre-Christmas accident south of Manila that claimed more than 4,000 lives in the world’s worst peacetime disaster at sea.