Death toll from capsized Philippine ferry rises to 50

Rescuers on Friday retrieved five more bodies from a ferry that capsized just moments after departing from a central Philippine port, raising the death toll to 50.

The bodies were recovered hours after coast guard spokesman Cmdr. Armand Balilo said all 187 passengers and crew members on the M/B Kim Nirvana had been accounted for, with 45 dead, 142 survivors and no reports of anyone else missing. The vessel overturned in choppy waters on Thursday off Ormoc City.

Cmdr. Balilo said the new bodies were found after a floating crane pulled the 36-tonne wooden vessel close to shore. The additional fatalities raised questions about the number of people on board, and Cmdr. Balilo said they will have to recheck the number of survivors and investigate if the crew allowed people not on the manifest to board the ferry.

The outrigger was leaving Ormoc port en route to one of the Camotes Islands, about 30 km to the south, when it was lashed by strong waves and capsized, he said.

The captain and some of the crew are in custody pending an investigation, Cmdr. Balilo said.

“Among the things we will look into is if there was a faulty manoeuvre, the stability of the vessel, and of course the weather,” he added.

Regional coast guard commander Capt. Pedro Tinampay told DZBB radio in Manila that the movement of cargo inside the ferry may have contributed to the accident. The ferry was carrying heavy construction materials and bags of rice.

Ormoc, a regional economic and transportation hub of about 200,000 people, is located in a disaster-prone eastern region that is regularly hit by some of the approximately 20 tropical storms and typhoons that blow in from the Pacific each year.