updated 12/14/2008 8:55:32 PM ET 2008-12-15T01:55:32

A wooden-hulled ferry with nearly 100 passengers capsized after being battered by big waves in the northeastern Philippines, drowning at least 22 people and leaving 34 missing, officials said Monday.

The ferry was approaching its destination in Aparri town in Cagayan province after a seven-hour journey from Calayan islands in the Luzon Strait when it overturned near the mouth of the Cagayan River on Sunday evening, said Senior Inspector Alex de los Santos.

He said police and villagers from Ballesterios town rescued 43 people late Sunday and recovered 22 bodies, including a 1-year-old boy and a town councilor.

Survivors were brought to the town police station. De los Santos said bad weather was hampering search and rescue operations for 34 people still missing.

Last month, a cargo ship sank in rough seas north of Cagayan, and passing vessels plucked 16 of 20 people from shark-infested waters. Weeks earlier, separate storms capsized two passenger boats in the central Philippines, drowning more than 50 people.

Sea accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago because of tropical storms, badly maintained boats and weak enforcement of safety regulations.

In December 1987, the ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with a fuel tanker, killing more than 4,341 people in the world's worst peacetime maritime disaster.

The state weather bureau over the weekend warned of an approaching storm from the Pacific with winds of up to 60 miles per hour.

Tropical Storm Dolphin could become a typhoon before getting closer to the eastern Philippines in the next few days, according to forecasts.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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