Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Ferry accident death toll hits 39

More than 20 people have died after a passenger ferry sank in the Philippines (AP)

At least 39 people have died in a sea accident in the Philippines, coast guard officials have said.

Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III said 751 passengers and crew of the Thomas Aquinas have been rescued following the accident which happened 57km (350 miles) south of Manila, while more than 80 people were missing.

Coast guard chief Commodore William Melad said there were 870 people on the ferry, including 754 passengers and 116 crew, after collating records of hospitals, rescuers and the ferry owner.

Coast guard deputy chief Rear Adm. Luis Tuason said some of the missing could still be trapped in the sunken ferry, which has been leaking oil.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya said the cargo ship was leaving the Cebu pier when it smashed into right side near the rear of the ferry which was arriving from southern Agusan del Sur province and making a brief stop in Cebu before proceeding to Manila.

"The sea was very calm and we could already see the lights at the pier," navy marshal Richard Pestillos told reporters.

"Then very suddenly ... there was a loud bang then the grating sound of metal being peeled off," he said.

Outbound and incoming ships are assigned separate routes in the narrow channel leading to the busy Cebu pier. It is not known if one of the vessels strayed into the wrong lane, said coast guard officials.

"There was probably a non-observance of rules," Melad told a news conference in Cebu, but he said the investigation will start after the search and rescue work ends.

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