MANILA, Philippines – An inter-island ferry packed with commuters overturned Tuesday while being buffeted by sudden monsoon winds and waves southeast of Manila, killing at least 40 people, officials said.
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Sodusta, the regional army commander, said 76 people were rescued and taken to two hospitals for treatment after the M/L Don Dexter Cathlyn was battered shortly after leaving port in central Masbate island for nearby Sorsogon province. He said 39 bodies have been recovered, including 11 children.
The ship’s manifest listed 119 passengers and a crew of six on board, though ferries frequently carry more people than are officially listed.
“We brought the dead to the plaza,” said police senior inspector Arturo Estopare, police chief of Dimasalang town, about three miles (five kilometers) from the accident site.
The bodies were lined up and covered, with wailing people checking them for missing loved ones.
Masbate provincial police chief Reuben Sindac told Manila radio station DZBB that the ferry had been sailing in relatively clear weather.
Police officer Roy Almine, who helped in the rescue, said huge waves and strong monsoon winds suddenly hit the boat, causing it to overturn and tossing passengers into the sea.
“There was some kind of whirlwind,” Sindac said. “There was no rain, no typhoon; the waters were calm when it happened.
“The ferry was not passenger-friendly. There were high railings and tarpaulin on the side so when the vessel overturned, these may have helped to trap the passengers.”
Such accidents frequently happen in the Philippine archipelago due to tropical weather, badly maintained passenger boats and weak enforcement of safety regulations. – AP