THE death toll from the sinking of three boats off Iloilo on Saturday rose to 31, as search and rescue teams recovered more bodies on Sunday, officials said.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said 20 more bodies were retrieved on Sunday. Ten of the victims were found under the overturned M/B Jenny Vince, the third boat that capsized at the Iloilo-Guimaras Strait.
On Saturday, 11 bodies were fished out, including that of a child.
Hours before Jenny was hit by huge waves, M/B Chi-Chi and M/B Keshia 2 sank in rough waters. Chi-Chi was carrying 43 passengers.
Regional police chief Rene Pamuspusan said six people were missing, while 55 individuals were rescued.
The PCG suspended all trips between Iloilo City and Guimaras, leaving some 600 passengers stranded at Parola Wharf.
Search and retrieval operations continue, the PCG said.
Scores die in maritime mishaps every year in the Philippines, usually aboard boats that move people from one small island to another.
Sea accidents historically spike during the middle of the year, when the country is frequently hit by storms and typhoons.
Many parts of Luzon and the Visayas had been lashed by torrential monsoon rain in the past week.
The weather bureau warned on Sunday that rains would persist in several provinces, as tropical depression “Hanna” could intensify into a storm in the next 24 hours.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) last spotted Hanna at 1,070 kilometers east of Infanta, Quezon. It was moving slowly in a west-northwest direction at 15 kilometers per hour (kph), and was carrying maximum sustained winds of 55 kph and gustiness of 70 kph.
Weather specialist Ezra Bulquerin said Hanna was expected to stay within the Philippine area of responsibility until Friday, but was unlikely to make landfall.
The weather bureau raised a yellow or “alert” warning in Metro Manila, Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Batangas and Oriental Mindoro, while an orange or “be prepared” warning was up in Northern Palawan and Occidental Mindoro. Strong rain in these areas may trigger floods or landslides.
Gale warning was also raised in more parts of the country, namely Quezon including Polilio Island, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Albay, Sorsogon, Masbate including Burias Island, Northen Samar, Eastern Samar, Samar, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Dinagat, Surigao del Norte including Siargao, Surigao del Sur, eastern coast of Davao Oriental, Western cost of Pangasinan, Zambales, Bataan, Batangas, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, Iloilo, Guimaras, Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Cebu and Bohol.
Pagasa discouraged small boats from sailing in the western seaboard of Central Luzon, seaboard of Southern Luzon and Visayas, and the eastern seaboard of Mindanao due to rough sea conditions.
Pagasa expects monsoon rains to prevail over Metro Manila, Pangasinan, Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, Batangas, Laguna, Mindoro provinces, northern Palawan, Romblon, Aklan and Antique until Tuesday.
Cloudy skies with scattered thunderstorms were expected over Cordillera, Bicol, Quezon, the Zamboanga Peninsula, the rest of the Ilocos Region, Central Luzon and the Visayas for the next two days.
BY RAFFY AYENG AND DIVINA NOVA JOY DELA CRUZ WITH AFP