Philippines: 200 Feared Dead After Ferry Crash

Philippines: 200 Feared Dead After Ferry Crash

A ferry with more than 800 passengers and crew on board has sunk after colliding with a cargo ship near the Philippine city of Cebu.

The coastguard said the MV Thomas Aquinas listed after hitting the Sulpicio Express Seven Cargo vessel and the captain gave the order to abandon ship.

At least 31 people, including some children, were confirmed dead, 629 were rescued and 171 were still unaccounted for, the coastguard said.

Rear Admiral Luis Tuason, vice commandant of the coastguard, warned that the number of dead would inevitably rise.

He said: "The captain managed to declare abandon ship and they distributed life jackets but, because of the speed by which it went down, there is a big chance that there are people trapped inside."

He added that the ferry sank within 10 minutes of the collision on Friday night at a narrow point near the port of Cebu.

Hundreds of passengers jumped into the ocean as the ship began sinking, said survivors. Many of the 831 on board were asleep at the time of the collision.

Jerwin Agudong said he and other passengers leapt overboard after the ferry began taking on water and the crew distributed life jackets.

He told radio station DZBB that some people were trapped and he saw bodies in the water.

"It seems some were not able to get out. I pity the children. We saw dead bodies on the side, and some being rescued," he said.

"One of the persons who jumped with us hit his head on metal. He is shaking and he is bloodied."

According to news reports, an 11-month-old baby was among those saved.

Danny Palmero, a former fisherman, said he was with friends who responded to the ferry's distress call and rescued seven people on their motorized outrigger canoe.

"I saw many flares being shot," he said. "As a former nautical student, I knew it was a distress signal."

Accidents at sea are common in the Philippine archipelago because of frequent storms, badly maintained boats and weak enforcement of safety regulations.

In 1987, the ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with a fuel tanker in the Philippines, killing 4,341 people in the world's worst peacetime maritime disaster.

In 2008, the ferry MV Princess of the Stars capsized during a typhoon, killing nearly 800 people.