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By Alexander Smith

At least 36 people died after a ferry capsized shortly after leaving the port of Ormoc in the Philippines on Thursday, officials said.

There were more than 170 passengers aboard the MV Kim Nirvana when it went down in bad weather just 650 feet from the port, a spokeswoman for the Philippine coast guard told NBC News. "It capsized immediately," she said.

At least 36 people were confirmed dead, 118 had been rescued, and around 20 were still missing, the Philippine Red Cross said on Twitter at 4:45 p.m. local time (4:45 a.m. ET), around four hours after the ship went down.

Rescuers search for survivors next to the capsized passenger ferry off Ormoc, Philippines, on Thursday.Getty Images

It was unclear how many crew were also on the vessel, according to the coast guard spokeswoman.

"Rubber boats" had been deployed as part of the rescue effort and part of the ship's hull was visible above the water, the spokeswoman said.

Ormoc is the second-largest city on the island of Leyte and around 350 miles southeast of Manila. The ship was bound for Pilar island, around 14 miles away, the coast guard said.

A survivor is pushed on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance after arriving at the pier in Ormoc, Philippines, on Thursday.JHON KEVIN PILAPIL / AFP via Getty Images