World Bulletin / News Desk
At least four are dead after a boat carrying 251 passengers capsized on Thursday in the northern Philippines’ Quezon province, some 70 kilometers east of Manila, according to officials.
At a press briefing in Manila, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson Captain Armand Balilo said they got a report at 11 a.m. (0300GMT) from their Northern Quezon station that the Mercraft 3, a boat bound for Polillo island, had sunk.
In a report by a local radio station, the Infanta Quezon Emergency Response Team confirmed four casualties as well as the rescue of at least 199 victims.
According to initial information, the craft has a maximum capacity of 286 passengers, with 251 passengers reportedly on board, Balilo said as quoted by Inquirer News.
Provincial police chief Senior Supt. Rhoderick Armamento said most of the passengers have already been rescued and accounted for based on the passenger manifest, but search and rescue operations are ongoing for the remaining dozens of passengers and crew.
The cause of the sinking remains unclear, but police report said the vessel left a port in the town of Real around 10:30 a.m. (0230GMT) and was slammed by huge waves, causing it to sink.
“Initial reports said the boat sustained a big hole that caused it to capsize,” said Juanito Diaz, acting Quezon disaster risk reduction and management council chief.
Diaz said the coast guard, with the help of the local disaster management offices and the local fishermen in the area, were able to save some victims, but is also seeking military help with search and rescue.
Rescue operations were hampered by big waves and widespread rain caused by Tropical Storm Vinta, which is expected to make landfall in the southern Philippines late Thursday.
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