Philippine ferry sinks: 4 dead, 88 missing, 166 rescued

2017-12-21 21:06
Coast guard spokesperson Armand Balilo shows a file photo of passenger vessel Mercraft 3 as he talks to reporters in Manila. (Aaron Favila, AP)

Coast guard spokesperson Armand Balilo shows a file photo of passenger vessel Mercraft 3 as he talks to reporters in Manila. (Aaron Favila, AP)

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Manila - An inter-island ferry battered by fierce winds and big waves sank on Thursday off the north-eastern Philippines, leaving at least four people dead and 88 others missing, officials said.

More than 160 others were rescued by coast guard ships and fishermen.

Coast guard spokesperson Armand Balilo said the rescue was launched after the passenger vessel Mercraft 3, which had 251 passengers and seven crew on board, began sinking between Quezon province's Infanta town and the ferry's destination, Polillo island.

READ: 200 missing in Philippine ferry disaster

Survivor Donel Jade Mendiola told DZMM radio that the weather was fine when the ferry left port in Quezon's Real town but strong winds and large waves started to lash it about two hours into the trip.

"The vessel came to a halt and started taking in water in the front side. The passengers dashed to one side and the ferry started to sink," Mendiola said. He said the passengers were instructed to don life vests.

Coast guard boats, navy vessels and fishing boats rescued 166 people, including many who were floating in the rough sea, Balilo said.

Rescue efforts will continue despite rough waves and nightfall, he said, adding that a coast guard helicopter tried to fly to the area but was hampered by the strong wind.

Typhoons and storms, poorly maintained ferries and ships, and law enforcement issues have often been blamed for past sea disasters in the Philippine archipelago.

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