14 dead, 18 missing in Philippines ferry sinking

Saturday, November 25th 2006, 10:48 pm
By: News On 6

MANILA, Philippines (AP) A ferry capsized in rough waters in the southern Philippines on Saturday, leaving at least 14 people dead and 18 missing, including a town mayor.

Sixty-five people were rescued by a passing boat and coast guard personnel after the Leonida II sank off Hinatuan island, 444 miles southeast of Manila, said Surigao provincial governor Lyndon Barbers.

Rescuers were searching Sunday for the 18 missing people.

The wooden-hulled ferry, which was carrying 300 sacks of cement and 18 sacks of rice, ran into large waves that damaged its bamboo outrigger, Barbers told The Associated Press by telephone.

The ferry was heading from Surigao City to Del Carmen town on Siargao Island when it encountered rough seas and rain.

Among those missing was Del Carmen town Mayor Arlyn Navarro and a councilor from another Surigao town, Barbers said.

``This is so unfortunate a tragedy because the people were already looking up to Christmas,'' said Barbers as he visited an emergency center in Surigao city where the bodies of seven passengers were taken to be claimed by relatives.

A total of 14 bodies were recovered. Barbers said he has asked the navy to send deep-sea divers and may ask the air force to help in the search and rescue.

Boat accidents happen frequently in the Philippines because many ferries, a key mode of transport in the archipelago, are old and poorly maintained, while enforcement of safety regulations is weak.