The death toll from a ferry that capsized in Ormoc City has risen to 61, the coast guard said Sunday, indicating that the vessel was overloaded.
Whether the ferry was carrying too many people will be part of an investigation into last week’s disaster that saw the boat’s owner and crew charged with murder.
Coast guard figures showed that 61 people died when the wooden Kim Nirvana capsized. At least 145 people were listed as survivors.
This would mean at least 206 people were onboard, exceeding the 194 passengers and crew the boat was authorized to carry. The heavy cargo the ferry was transporting may also have played a role, authorities have said.
“The number of bodies is more than we expected,” said Captain Pedro Tinampay, the regional coast guard chief, refusing to speculate how many might still be missing.
Only 173 passengers and 16 crew were listed on the boat’s manifest.
The crew were accused of reckless behavior, with an initial police investigation and interviews with survivors indicating the vessel turned abruptly causing it to capsize.
The police investigation is separate from a coast guard enquiry, which will primarily determine the cause of the mishap. However, the coast guard may also recommend criminal and administrative charges.
On Sunday, the bodies of 45 victims were transported to their hometown of Pilar, where their grieving families awaited.
The bodies were ferried by the Coast Guard’s BRP Batangas.
Pilar Mayor Jesus Fernandez Jr. said the whole town is in mourning because 39 of those killed were residents of Pilar.
The Public Attorney’s Office also reached out to the families of the victims.
In a text message, PAO Chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said the District Office of PAO in Ormoc will provide legal assistance to the victims and their families.