4 dead after Philippine ferry sinks in rough seas

Four people were killed and seven missing on Thursday after a ferry with 251 passengers and seven crew on board sank in stormy weather off the Philippines shortly before noon, rescuers said.

As many as 240 passengers and crew swam to safety or were rescued after Mercraft 3 sank in heavy seas en route to a remote island. Among the dead were two men and two women.

Rescue efforts were suspended for the night because of high winds.  Rescue efforts will continue on Friday
Weather was fine when the boat, which can carry up to 280 passengers, left Real town for Polillo Island, a two-and-half hour ride.

Suddenly, wind began to blow and as the boat stopped, huge waves carried water into the boat. Panicked passengers rushed to one side of the boat making it tilt, one of the survivors Donel Mendiola told DZMM radio.

Weather was a big factor in the accident, coastguard spokesman Armand Balilo said. There was no weather warning at Real or Polillo when the boat began the journey. However, Tropical Storm Tembin was forecast to hit land early on Friday and people going home for Christmas had been advised to advance their travel plan.
The Philippines is plagued by poor sea transport, with its badly regulated boats and ships prone to overcrowding and accidents.

Although Mercraft 3 had life jackets for the safety of passengers, they were not wearing them. The instruction to do came only when water started entering the boat.

Usually, boat accidents happen in Philippines because of overcrowding or collision with other vessels.

An overcrowded Philippine ferry Dona Paz travelling from Leyte island to Manila collided with an oil tanker in 1987 four days before Christmas leaving over 4,000 dead.

Another overcrowded ferry Kim Nirvana capsized shortly after departure off the city of Ormoc in central Philippines in 2015, killing 61 people.