Mon, May 26, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Fears for missing as ferry crashes

OCEAN DISASTER A small passenger boat hit a larger vessel as unconfirmed reports said that one child had been killed after the collision in a choppy Manila Bay

AP , MANILA

A passenger vessel carrying nearly 200 people sank after colliding with a larger ferry yesterday in the choppy waters of Manila Bay. The coast guard said at least 95 had been rescued, and search operations were underway for the rest.

There were unconfirmed reports that one child died after the collision between the M.V. San Nicolas, a passenger and cargo vessel traveling to Manila from Coron, in western Palawan province, and the Superferry 12, said coast guard commander Vice Admiral Ruben Lista.

Coast guard spokesman Lieutenant Armando Balilo said the San Nicolas, carrying 168 passengers and a crew of 25, sank in heavy seas.

Lista said several people were seen drifting toward a nearby island.

The incident occurred around 11:45am near Limbones Point, off Cavite province south of Manila, and not far from Corregidor Island.

Lista said the coast guard and navy were being aided by the crew of the Superferry 12, a helicopter and some commercial ships.

"Because of the very large number of vessels, it's pretty well covered," Lista said of the rescue operation.

The incident occurred as monsoon rains and strong winds lashed the northern and central Philippines.

Gina Virtusio, spokeswoman for WG&A Philippines, which operates the Superferry 12, said the vessel was cruising out of Manila Bay when it was struck by the smaller passenger ship.

"We were in the right of way en route to Cebu then they hit us on the port side," Virtusiosaid by telephone. She said all 1,400 passengers and 150 crew members of the Superferry 12 were safe and that 24 survivors from the San Nicolas had been brought aboard.

Small boats and ferries, notorious for overloading and lacking safety features, are the chief means of travel among islands in the Philippine archipelago, where boat accidents are common.

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