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23 December 2017

Philippines rescues 252 ferry passengers

THE PHILIPPINES: Rescue teams in the Philippines resumed their search for survivors 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 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 told AFP by telephone. Local fishing boats and the Philippine navy were assisting in the search, according to the coastguard office in Manila.

A stranded passenger is carried towards the shore after ferry service was cancelled, a day after a Philippine vessel capsized because of bad weather in Infanta, Quezon in the Philippines.