Manila: At least three people drowned and more than 800 terrified passengers, many roused from their sleep, were rescued early today from a ferry that listed and then sank in the southern Philippines, officials said. More than 80 people were missing.
Coast guard chief Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo said 880 of 964 passengers and crewmen on board the Superferry 9 were transferred to two nearby commercial ships and a navy gunboat hours after the ferry began to list off Zamboanga del Norte province before dawn.
A search was under way for more than 80 people who remained missing, Tamayo said, adding that they may have drifted with their life jackets or have been rescued but were not yet listed as survivors.
“We really hope they’re just unaccounted for due to the confusion,” Tamayo told The Associated Press.
Navy ships were deployed and air force helicopters scoured the seas, defence secretary Gilbert Teodoro said.
He said three passengers, including a child and a man, drowned during the scramble to escape the ship. Three other passengers were injured, the coast guard said.
The cause of the listing was not clear. The ferry skipper initially ordered everyone on board to abandon the ship as a precautionary step, said Jess Supan, vice president of Aboitiz Transport System, which owns the steel-hulled ferry.