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philippines ferry sinks

At least 24 people have died and more than 280 are missing after a ferry collided with a cargo ship and sank off the Philippines.

The MV Thomas Aquinas, carrying 692 people, was in collision with the cargo vessel on Friday evening near the central city of Cebu, officials said.

Coastguard and naval vessels helped by local fishing boats have rescued more than 570 people so far.

The incident took place around 2km (1.2 miles) from the shore.

The ferry was sailing into the port at Cebu – the country’s second biggest city – when it collided with the cargo ship travelling the other way at about 21:00 local time (13:00 GMT)

“The impact was very strong,” Rachel Capuno, a spokesperson for the owners of the ferry, told local radio.

Survivors said hundreds of passengers jumped into the ocean as the ferry began taking on water and listing. The crew distributed life jackets.

Darkness

Many of the passengers were asleep and others struggled to find their way in the dark, reports said.

One survivor, Jerwin Agudong, said he and other passengers jumped overboard in front of the cargo vessel.

“It seems some people were not able to get out,” Mr Agudong told radio station DZBB. “I pity the children. We saw dead bodies on the side, and some being rescued.”

The ferry sank within 30 minutes of the collision, the AFP news agency reports.

“They are using search lights to scan the waters, but still there is a possibility you can miss those floating at sea. Rescuers are trying to get to all of them,” Joy Villagas, an official at the coastguard’s public affairs office headquarters in Manila, told AFP.

Cebu coastguard commander Weniel Azcuna told reporters that the cargo ship, Sulpicio Express 7, had 36 crew members on board, but it did not sink.

Passengers on the ferry had embarked at Nasipit in the southern province of Agusan del Sur.

Ms Villagas said it was too early to determine the cause of Friday’s collision.

She said the Thomas Aquinas was a “roll-on, roll-off” ferry that allows vehicles to be driven aboard and is commonly used in the Philippines.

Maritime accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago because of tropical weather, badly maintained passenger boats and weak enforcement of safety regulations.

The world’s worst maritime disaster in peacetime occurred in the Philippines in December 1987. More than 4,000 people died when the Dona Paz ferry collided with a tanker.

BBC

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