Death toll in Philippines ferries disaster rises to 31

Three people remain missing after three ferries capsize off two central Philippine provinces.

    Death toll in Philippines ferries disaster rises to 31
    Rescuers pluck ferry sinking victims from the choppy waters off Guimaras in Iloilo province [NDRRMC/AP)

    Rescuers have pulled more bodies from rough seas where three ferries capsized off two central Philippine provinces, bringing the death toll to 31 with three people still missing.

    The motorised, wooden-hulled boats were carrying a total 96 passengers and crew when harsh weather conditions caused the vessels to overturn off the central island of Guimaras and Iloilo provinces on Saturday.

    Coast Guard spokesman Armand Balilo said on Sunday the dead were passengers from two of the ferries. 

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    A third ferry, which was not carrying passengers, also capsized in the Iloilo Strait, but its five crew survived, Balilo said.

    Sixty-two other passengers and crew were rescued.

    Survivors recounted how the sky suddenly turned dark midway through their trip, followed by strong winds and rain that battered their ferries.

    Forecasters have warned of heavy monsoon rains, thunderstorms and rain-triggered landslides amid a tropical depression more than 1,000 kilometres off the country's eastern coast.

    Classes and work were suspended in metropolitan Manila on Friday and Saturday amid heavy rains and flooding, which caused intense traffic jams in low-lying areas in the capital.

    The Southeast Asian archipelago nation has a poor shipping safety record, with scores of people dying in maritime accidents every year - usually aboard boats that move people from one small island to another.

    About 20 typhoons and storms batter the Philippines annually.

    Philippines map

     

    SOURCE: News agencies