2 dead, hundreds missing after Philippine boat crash
Superferry 9 listing off Zamboanga peninsular in September 6, 2009. At least two people died and the fate of about 600 others was unknown after a ferry collided with a cargo ship in the Philippines on Friday, authorities said.
The Thomas Aquinas ferry, carrying 692 people, collided with a freighter near the port of Cebu, the country's second biggest city, coastguard spokesman Commander Armando Balilo said.
Authorities said a rescue mission using all available resources was launched immediately after the collision, which occurred at about 9:00 pm (1300 GMT) around two kilometres (1.2 miles) from shore.
"The Aquinas has sunk and we have sent a navy patrol gunboat to join the coastguard in the search and rescue effort," navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic told AFP.
"We have plucked dozens of survivors from the water but we can't say if everyone has been accounted for."
Balilo said two bodies had been plucked from the water.
He said rescuers had saved 22 people and were frantically searching for others who were thrown overboard during the crash.
Radio reports, citing local officials, said 220 people had been rescued within about four hours of the accident, but this could not be immediately confirmed.
Rachel Capuno, a security officer for the ferry's owners, told Cebu radio station DYSS that the ship was sailing into port when it collided head-on with the cargo ship.
"The impact was very strong," she said, adding the ferry sank within 30 minutes of the collision.
Cebu coastguard commander Weniel Azcuna told reporters the accident occurred about two kilometres from the Cebu port.
He said the cargo ship, Sulpicio Express 7, had 36 crew members on board.
Ferries are the main mode of transport across the archipelago of more than 7,100 islands.
But sea accidents are common, with poor safety standards and overloading typically to blame.
The world's deadliest peacetime maritime disaster occurred near the capital, Manila, in 1987 when a ferry laden with Christmas holidaymakers collided with a small oil tanker, killing more than 4,300 people.
In 2008, a huge ferry capsized during a typhoon off the central island of Sibuyan, leaving almost 800 dead.
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