MOSCOW/BALI, August 17 (RIA Novosti) – At least 31 people died and nearly 200 are missing after a Philippines passenger ferry collided with a cargo vessel and sank on Friday evening, local and international media reported.
The MV Saint Thomas Aquinas was heading for a scheduled stop in a port in the Cebu province when it collided with the MV Sulpicio Express Seven. Coast Guard Cebu Station Commander Weniel Azcuna told radio dyHP that the ferry sank some 15 minutes after the collision. The accident took place around 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the shore, the BBC reported.
The Associated Press cited Philippines Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Abaya as saying that of the 831 people on board the ferry, 31 people had died and 629 had been rescued. The news agency cited Azcuna as saying 171 were listed as missing.
“We were so close to the port, and then disaster struck,” a survivor, 43-year-old Jessica Varquez, told the Sun Star Cebu news website. “The vessel shook violently and the passengers began to panic.”
Another survivor, Adela Guevara, said the ship’s crew didn’t warn them about the danger and that life jackets were not distributed while the ship was sinking. She and her four-year-old son jumped off the ship and survived.
The cargo vessel, which had 36 crew members and officials on board, remained afloat after the collision, Waterfront Police Chief Waldemar Tiu was quoted as saying by Sun Star Cebu.
The rescue effort involved two coast guard vessels and a Navy gunship, joined by an unknown number of fishing boats.
Updates death toll and number of missing, clarifies total number of passengers on board.