At least 31 dead after three boats capsize in Philippines

One of the outrigger boats, partially submerged, in the waters off Iloilo city in the Philippines last Saturday. Twenty bodies were recovered in rough seas yesterday, adding to the 11 retrieved earlier.
One of the outrigger boats, partially submerged, in the waters off Iloilo city in the Philippines last Saturday. Twenty bodies were recovered in rough seas yesterday, adding to the 11 retrieved earlier.PHOTO: REUTERS

At least 31 people died after three boats capsized as the south-west monsoon stirred huge swells and powerful gusts across a busy waterway in the central Philippines last Saturday.

Twenty bodies were recovered in rough seas yesterday, Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Armand Balilo told reporters, citing field reports. That added to the 11 who were plucked out of the water last Saturday.

The police said some of the bodies that were recovered still had life vests on.

A child was among the dead.

The state-run Philippine News Agency released an image of rescue divers placing two corpses, one still wearing a life vest, atop the only parts of a boat still above water.

The Office of Civil Defence had said in an earlier report that 26 people had died, five remained missing and 55 had been rescued.

A small ferry carrying 43 passengers and four crewmen had capsized after it ran into a squall at around noon along the Iloilo-Guimaras Strait, some 450km south of capital Manila. Eleven of the passengers drowned.

At almost the same time, another boat capsized. It was not carrying any passengers and all five of its crew survived.

Three hours later, a third ferry - with 44 on board - flipped over after it was buffeted by sudden wind and powerful waves. Twenty passengers died.

Survivors recounted how the sky suddenly turned dark midway through their trip. This was followed by a sudden violent gust of wind and rain.

The authorities yesterday questioned why a third ferry was allowed to sail about three hours after two others overturned in bad weather.

All three boats were motorised, wooden outrigger boats used to ferry tourists and locals to small islands.

A tropical storm has been stoking the south-west monsoon, bringing heavy downpours and thunderstorms across the upper half of the Philippines. It is still 1,000km from the country's coast and is not expected to make landfall.

Manila ground to a halt last Friday, as rainfall flooded many of the city's main roads.

Farther south, in the Visayas, a region of large island provinces, the south-west monsoon has stirred huge swells in the open ocean and gale-force winds.

About 20 typhoons and storms batter the Philippines each year, making the archipelago that lies on the Pacific typhoon and earthquake belt one of the world's most disaster-prone countries.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2019, with the headline 'At least 31 dead after three boats capsize in Philippines'. Print Edition | Subscribe