At least 28 people are dead and more than 200 missing after a ferry sank in the central Philippines after it collided with a cargo vessel.
Reuters reports that a gaping hole was left in the bow of the cargo ship after the collision with the ferry, MV Thomas Aquinas, on Friday near the country’s second-largest city of Cebu:
“The 40-year-old ferry was approaching Cebu when it collided with the departing cargo ship, the Sulpicio Express 7, at about 9 pm (1300 GMT). It sank in minutes.
‘Search and rescue operations by the navy and coast guard are continuing with the help of some commercial vessels,’ acting coast guard chief Rear Admiral Luis Tuason told local radio.
‘The number of missing is still huge.’”
Tuason, in an interview with Manila’s DZBB radio, said: “The captain managed to declare abandon ship and they distributed life jackets but, because of the speed by which it went down, there is a big chance that there are people trapped inside.”
One survivor, Jerwin Agudong, told the radio station that he and other passengers jumped into the water in front of the cargo ship after the two vessels hit.
“It seems some people were not able to get out,” Agudong said. “I pity the children. We saw dead bodies on the side, and some being rescued.”
Reuters says “at least 28 people” are confirmed dead and then many of the survivors were “sick from swallowing oil and seawater.” However, The Washington Post, quoting Philippines’ Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Abaya, says the death toll was 31, with 629 passengers rescued. Abaya says the ferry carried 831 people at the time of the collision, but the BBC, quoting the Philippine coast guard said 715 were on board.
The Philippines archipelago is no stranger to ferry accidents. As recently as June, 14 people were killed in two separate ferry sinkings in as many days. In the world’s worst peacetime shipping disaster, a ferry collided with an oil tanker off Mindoro Island near Manila in December 1987, leaving more than 4.300 people dead.