Fishermen and rescue workers hauled dozens of people out of the ocean after a ferry sank in the central Philippines yesterday, but at least two passengers drowned, authorities said.
In the latest disaster to hit the nation’s notoriously dangerous sea transport industry, the ferry mysteriously sank in calm weather before dawn about 2km from Burias island.
Fishermen on small outrigger motorboats were among the first to arrive on the scene and saved many lives, coast guard deputy chief Bayani Belisario said.
“They [the passengers] were floating in their life jackets and the rescuers picked them out of the water,” Belisario said.
He said several people from the sunken ship were also able to make the long swim to the shores of Burias on their own.
A navy plane and a coastguard ship, diverted from taking part in maritime exercises in Indonesia, joined the search and 55 people were rescued throughout the morning, authorities said, but Belisario said the bodies of two women were recovered from the water.
The ferry’s manifest listed 35 passengers and 22 crew aboard, but local civil defense chief Raffy Alejandro said there could be as many as seven people still missing.
Seven drivers and assistants who drove two buses and a truck aboard the roll-on, roll-off ferry may not have been listed because they traveled for free, Alejandro said.
He said the cause of the sinking was not yet known, but the ship’s captain, who was among those rescued, reported the vessel may have been unbalanced by the buses and large truck.
“He said it happened so quickly. It just went down in the darkness,” Alejandro said, adding the waters and weather were calm.