Desperate hunt for Philippine ferry survivors

Philippine navy divers battled strong ocean currents in a desperate hunt for seven missing passengers of a ferry that sank with dozens onboard.

The Lady of Mount Carmel ferry mysteriously went down in calm weather on Friday about two kilometres from central Burias island, killing two women passengers. Officials said 61 of the 70 people aboard the vessel had been rescued.

Hopes of finding the remaining missing passengers were fading fast as strong currents thwarted attempts by the navy divers to reach the seabed, navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Gerald Fabic told reporters.

"They still have not (located) the ferry and they were not able to go too deep," Fabic said.

He said there was a slim chance that the seven missing had drifted away to nearby islands.

However, he added there was also a probability that they were trapped inside the sunken vessel.

Fabic said navy and coastguard vessels would continue scouring areas around Burias island with the help of local fishermen until they were given orders to terminate the search.

Ferries are the main mode of transportation across the the archipelago's more than 7,100 islands.

But the country's sea transport industry is notoriously disaster-prone, with sea accidents common due to poor safety standards.

The world's deadliest peacetime maritime disaster occurred near Manila in 1987 when a ferry laden with Christmas holidaymakers collided with a small oil tanker, killing more than 4,300 people.

- AFP

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