Philippine Ferry Capsizes On Anniversary Of History’s Worst Ferry Disaster

PCG Spokesman Capt. Armand Balilo
PCG Spokesman Capt. Armand Balilo says poor weather may have played a role in the sinking of the ship

A Philippine ferry carrying 251 people capsized on Thursday off an island south of Manila, the capital, a coast guard spokesman said, amid a storm bringing heavy downpours.

By evening, 240 of the 251 people who were aboard the vessel, the Mercraft 3, were  rescued, according to the Philippine Office of Civil Defense. Seven people were still unaccounted for. The ferry was underway in rough seas on a voyage from Ungos port in Real, a town east of Manila, to Polillo Island when it capsized at about 11:30 a.m.

Coast guard boats and army helicopters rushed to the vicinity of Polilio island in the province of Quezon to rescue passengers, taking advantage of daylight, spokesman Armand Balilo said on television.

“We heard about casualties, but we are still trying to get a complete picture,” Balilo said, adding that the ferry, which had the capacity to carry 280 people, had not been overloaded.

“The vessel came to a halt and started taking in water in the front side.” A survivor, Donel Jade Mendiola, told DZMM radio. “The passengers dashed to one side and the ferry started to sink,” Mendiola also said the passengers were instructed to don life vests.

This incident occurred on the day of the thirtieth anniversary of the  MV Doña Paz tragedy. The Doña Paz  was a Philippine-registered passenger ferry that sank after colliding with the oil tanker MT Vector on December 20, 1987. Traveling from Leyte island to the Philippine capital of Manila, the vessel was seriously overcrowded, with at least 2000 passengers not listed on the manifest. With an estimated death toll of 4,386 people and only 24 survivors, it remains the deadliest peacetime maritime disaster in history.

Maritime incidents are common in the Philippines, which is frequently lashed by storms and typhoons.