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29 missing after ferry mishap in Philippines: Govt

5fa30730d439745a76565da4bc124b3f8651d3b4-1a19br2AFP From The Times Of India

MANILA: At least 29 people are missing after a ferry lost control of its steering and was hit by huge waves in waters off the central Philippines on Saturday night, the government’s civil defence office said.

The Maharlika II ferry, carrying at least 84 people, lost control and was carried away by the current and waves, forcing those on board to abandon ship off the central island of Leyte, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said in a statement.

Rescue ships were able to pick up 55 survivors, the council said in its latest statement published on its website late Saturday. At least two survivors have been rushed to hospital, the statement added.

Ships are still searching for the remaining crew and passengers and there are no reports of any fatalities so far, the council said.

The organisation had originally stated that the vessel had sunk but officials said they were not certain of its ultimate condition.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 11.28.36 AM“Rescue boats had trouble reaching them because the waves were really huge,” spokeswoman Mina Marasigan said.

The ferry had reported “problems with steering” and had also been buffeted by heavy rains, worsened by Typhoon Kalmaegi which is approaching the northern Philippines, she said.

A coast guard report earlier said that the vessel was stricken about six nautical miles (11 kilometres) from the small island of Panaon or about 680 kilometres (420 miles) south of Manila.

Although only 84 passengers and crew were listed on the manifest, it is common practice in the Philippines for some passengers to board such ferries without being listed.

Poorly-maintained, loosely-regulated ferries are the backbone of maritime travel in the sprawling archipelago.

But this has led to frequent accidents that have claimed hundreds of lives in recent years including the world’s worst peacetime maritime disaster in 1987 when the Dona Paz ferry collided with an oil tanker, leaving more than 4,300 dead.

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