HUGE waves whipped up by Typhoon Luis sank a passenger and cargo ferry off the coast of Southern Leyte late on Saturday.
Government officials said three persons died and three went missing when MV Maharlika 2 capsized six nautical miles northwest of Binit Point, Panaoan Island.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said 110 people were rescued.
Lt. Cmdr. Marineth R. Domingo, acting director of the Naval Public Affairs Office, on Sunday said the ferry was en route to Liloan Port, Southern Leyte.
A survivor recounted to a Philippine Navy crew that the ship started to go down when the lashing of vehicles and other cargoes onboard snapped, causing the ship to list to starboard until it sank.
Domingo said three civilian vessels and Navy ships BRP Alberto Navarette and BRP Rafael Pargas responded to a distress call sent by the ferry.
Southern Leyte Gov. Roger Mercado said the ship, which left Lipata terminal in Surigao del Sur at 2 p.m., was carrying 104 people but the passenger manifest only declared 84 passengers.
A report from the NDRRMC indicated that some of the people on board were not on the ship’s manifest.
The ferry was also carrying a PhilTranco bus loaded with passengers.
Mercado said the Philippine Coast Guard received the distress call from the ferry between 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
The ship took on water and went down as Coast Guard and private vessels rushed to pick up the survivors.
MV Maharlika 2 is owned by Archipelago Philippine Ferries Corp., the company that owned another ferry that ran aground near Liloan in Southern Leyte on January 3, 2011. All 170 passengers were rescued.
The NDRRMC identified the fatalities in the MV Maharlika 2 sinking as Ruth Ebol, 36, from Marihatag, Surigao del Sur; Peter John Santos, 24, of Capiz; and Jerson Sabrini, 16, of Surigao City.
Palace deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte admitted that there had been some confusion over the number of people aboard the vessel when it went down.
“They are trying to get a more precise number of the people who were on the vessel,” Valte said in a radio interview.
She added that the captain had told the Philippine Coast Guard there were 116 people on board.
The Palace official said President Benigno Aquino 3rd, who left on Saturday night for a four-nation European visit, ordered all agencies involved in disaster management to minimize the casualties from Luis.
According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), Typhoon Luis had maximum sustained winds of 130 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 160 kph as it roared toward Northern Luzon on Saturday morning.
It hit land last night.
Public storm signal No. 3 was raised in the provinces of Apayao, Ilocos Norte, Abra, Kalinga, Isabela, Mountain Province, Ilocos Sur, Ifugao, Northern Aurora, Quirino, Cagayan and the Babuyan and Calayan islands.
Signal No. 2 was hoisted over Batanes, Benguet, La Union, Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija and the rest of Aurora; and Signal No. 1 in Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales, Northern Quezon and Polillo Island.
Residents in low-lying and mountainous areas under public storm warning signals were alerted against possible flashfloods and landslides while those in coastal areas were told to be vigilant against storm surges of up to two meters.
The NDRRMC mobilized its local councils in the provinces affected by the typhoon while the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said relief goods are ready for distribution to Luis victims.
It said at least three towns in the direct path of the storm have initiated “pre-emptive evacuation.”
“I am calling on our countrymen . . . take proper precautions for your situation and listen to the warnings of your village leaders. Do not wait for the storm to hit you,” the council’s head Alexander Pama said in a live television broadcast.
DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman said food items worth P24,509,631.75 and non-food items worth P34,605,518.84 are ready in their field offices.
She added that 108,032 family food packs have been prepositioned in the National Capital Region (Metro Manila), Cordillera Administrative Region and Regions 1,2,3 and 5.
Typhoon Luis, which is moving northwest at 20 kph, is expected to pass Luzon by Monday.
The Philippines is hit by about 20 storms or typhoons each year.
Typhoon Glenda (international codename: Rammasun) killed 98 people and left five others missing in provinces around Manila in July.
Typhoon Luis also left hundreds of passengers stranded in various ports and canceled flights to Tuguegarao, Caticlan, Busuanga, Legazpi, Masbate, Laoag, Cebu and Virac.
Concerned airlines said passengers affected by the flight cancelations will be accommodated in the soonest available flights, or have the option to rebook on regular flights.