A ferry sank in the Philippines on Friday, killing at least 24 people and leaving 217 more missing. The incident happened around 9 pm in the Mactan Channel, just two miles northwest of Cebu City.
The ferry collided with a cargo ship in the waters between southern Philippine islands, according to a coast guard official.
CNN reports that Lieutenant Elgen Gregorio with the Philippine Coast Guard explained that 629 people had been rescued by Saturday morning.
The passenger ship, the MV St. Thomas Aquinas, was traveling from nearby Butuan City when it collided with the cargo ship Sulpicio, which was leaving Cebu for Davao province in Mindanao.
While the cargo ship was damaged, it did not sink. However, the ferry did. It sent a distress call heard by Coast Guard officials while it was sinking. The cargo vessel involved in the incident was helping with the rescue efforts.
Cebu coast guard chief, Commander Weniel Azcuna, added that the 24 bodies recovered so far include children. ABC News adds that there were 841 people aboard the passenger ferry at the time of the sinking.
The coast guard is still focused on rescue rather than recovery and will begin investigations into the fatal accident later on. Several dead bodies have been spotted underwater by Navy divers. However, they have not yet been recovered.
A former fisherman and friends responded to the ferry’s distress call and were able to rescue seven people. He recalled seeing several flares being shot into the air, a common distress signal. The fisherman added that he and his friends picked up the survivors they saw “and left the dead in the water.”
The cargo ship tossed life jackets to people who had jumped into the dark waters and two coast guard vessels, along with several other ships, were involved in the rescue. The cargo ship involved in the Philippine ferry sinking has a large gash at its bow.
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