24 dead, more than 200 missing after Philippines ferry collides with cargo ship

A rescuer carries an infant child survivor of the ferry St. Thomas Aquinas to a hospital in Talisay, Cebu, in the central Philippines on Saturday.Stringer / REUTERS

At least 24 people were killed and more than 200 were unaccounted for after a Philippines ferry collided with a cargo ship Friday, the coast guard said. 

The coast guard said that hundreds had been rescued by passing fishing boats, tug boats and coast guard vessels, Reuters reported.

But rescuers were still looking for 217 people on Saturday, Reuters reported. Rear Admiral Luis Tuason said there were 870 crew and passengers on the ferry, although the manifest showed 692 on board.

The ferry, which was at the mouth of a channel approaching Cebu in the central Philippines, had requested a change in its approach minutes before the accident, Tuason said.

The captain of the St. Thomas Aquinas Ferry was forced to abandon ship at around 9:05 p.m. local time (9:05 a.m. ET) due to a huge hole in the side of his vessel, Lt. Commander Ramil Palabrica of the Philippine Coast Guard told NBC News.

This was the second crash in two months around the islands. 

Two people died and 54 were rescued after another ferry, the MV Lady of Mount Carmel sank off the Burias Islands on June 13.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation, but the Inquirer News reported that poor lashing of a bus may have caused the vessel to tilt.

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

The world's worst maritime disaster in peace time occurred in the Philippines in December 1987. More than 4,000 people died when the Dona Paz ferry collided with a tanker.

Reuters contributed to this report.

This cargo vessel is shown at anchor after colliding with a passenger ferry in the Philippines.Stringer / REUTERS