CEBU, Philippines — Divers combed through a sunken ferry Saturday in search of dozens of people missing after a collision with a cargo vessel near the central Philippine port of Cebu. At least 31 were confirmed dead and hundreds rescued.
The captain of the ferry MV Thomas Aquinas ordered the ship abandoned when it began listing and then sank just minutes after the collision late Friday with the MV Sulpicio Express Siete, said the coast guard deputy chief. Rear Adm. Luis Tuason said.
Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Abaya announced official passenger figures following confusion over the actual number of people on the ferry.
He said the ferry carried 831 people — 715 passengers and 116 crew — fewer than the numbers given earlier by the coast guard and ferry owner, 2Go. He said the death toll has risen to 31 with 629 rescued.
There were foreigners on board "but they are all okay," except for a New Zealand citizen who was in a hospital, Abaya said.
The Cebu coast guard chief, Cmdr. Weniel Azcuna, said 171 were listed as missing, but the figure would go down once the number of crew members who have been rescued are officially accounted for.
Tuason said some of the missing could still be trapped inside the vessel that sank in waters about 100 feet deep off Talisay city in Cebu province, 350 miles south of Manila.
Accidents at sea are common in the Philippine archipelago because of storms, badly maintained boats and weak enforcement of safety regulations.