At least 36 dead as ferry capsizes near port in Philippines
Published 03/07/2015 | 02:30
A ferry carrying 189 passengers and crew capsized yesterday minutes after it left a central Philippines port in choppy waters, leaving at least 36 dead.
At least 26 others are still missing, according to coast guard officials. They said at least 127 people from the M/B Kim Nirvana were rescued by nearby fishing boats and coast guard personnel or swam to safety off Ormoc city on Leyte Island.
Coast guard spokesman Armand Balilo said the wooden ferry was leaving Ormoc for the Camotes Islands, about 44km to the south, when it was lashed by strong waves. He said the captain and some of the crew were rescued and were in custody pending an investigation.
Survivors said it was not immediately clear what caused the 36-tonne ferry, which was carrying a heavy cargo of construction materials and bags of rice, to overturn.
Survivors gave accounts that the bow suddenly rose from the water before the vessel flipped over on one side, turning it upside down and trapping passengers underneath.
Among the passengers who survived were at least three Americans and a Canadian.
Lawrence Drake (48), a retired firefighter from New York, said he was able to revive a woman who wasn't breathing while they were in the water via mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Mr Drake said he also saved the woman's pregnant daughter and an eight-year-old boy. He said he saw at least seven bodies floating in the water, including two children.
Many of the passengers were screaming in panic, he said.
Drake's Filipino wife, Mary Jane, said the ferry was pulling slowly out of the port when it suddenly flipped to the left in strong waves. "No one was able to jump out because it overturned very swiftly. There was no time to jump," she said.
TV footage showed coast guard rescuers and army soldiers carrying survivors from rubber boats to a beach. Not far away, the bottom part of the vessel could be seen protruding from the water.
A rescue leader, Ciriaco Tolibao, said coast guard divers were searching the overturned boat to find more survivors or retrieve bodies.
Cloudy weather at the time of the accident did not pose any danger that would have prompted the coast guard to stop sea voyages.
Forecasters said winds in the Ormoc region were not strong enough to whip up dangerous waves.