LEGAZPI CITY: Six more people were hauled out of the sea after a ferry sank off Burias island in Masbate province with dozens aboard, officials said Saturday, as navy divers were called in to hunt for survivors.
Seven people remain missing a day after the Lady of Mount Carmel ferry mysteriously sank in calm weather about two kilometers (1.2 miles) from central Burias island, killing two women passengers.
“Navy divers plan to search underwater to find the ship and check whether there were passengers trapped inside,” regional navy spokesman Ensign John Duruin told reporters.
The Coast Guard and local fishermen were also assisting with rescue efforts, he added.
The vessel sank early Friday near the end of its regular four-hour run between the port of Pio Duran and Masbate island in central Philippines.
Six more people had been rescued, raising the number of survivors to 61, according to the civil defense office in the regional capital Legazpi city.
Officials did not offer any information on the condition of the six or how they were rescued.
Duruin said only three of the 61 survivors were still in hospital.
Meanwhile, officials said they now believe there were 70 people aboard the vessel when it tipped over — more than the 57 listed in the vessel’s manifest.
The cause of the sinking is under investigation, Duruin said.
Press reports suggested the ferry tipped over when one of the vehicles in its hold broke loose from its restraint and caused an imbalance.
Meanwhile, another ferry with more than 360 passengers on board hit a submerged rock that punctured its hull before dawn Saturday, causing the engine to flood, the Coast Guard said.
However, the Gregory the Great was able to reach the nearby central port of Iloilo without further incident, a Coast Guard statement said.
The country’s sea transport industry is notoriously disaster-prone, with sea accidents common because of poor safety standards.
The world’s deadliest peacetime maritime disaster occurred near Manila in 1987 when a ferry laden with Christmas holidaymakers collided with a small oil tanker, killing more than 4,300 people.