Philippines Ferry Sinks, 21 Missing

Philippine maritime authorities are searching for survivors from a ferry with at least 84 people on board that sank late Saturday in waters off the central island of Leyte.

The Philippine Coast Guard reported 63 passengers had been rescued by early Sunday. A spokesman said the Maharlika II sent a distress call after its rudder broke, leaving the vessel stalled as it was battered by heavy waves and high winds.

The accident took place as tropical storm Kalmaegi was passing to the north toward the South China Sea. But Coast Guard spokesman Armand Balilo told reporters there were no storm warnings as far south as southern Leyte when the accident occurred.

Reuters news agency quoted Southern Leyte Governor Roger Mercado as saying authorities were investigating eyewitness accounts that as many as 100 people boarded the ferry at Liloan town for the three-hour voyage to Suriago City.

Scores, sometimes hundreds of people die each year in ferry accidents in the Philippines — an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands with a notoriously bad record of maritime safety. Overcrowding is common aboard inter-island ferries, many of which are poorly maintained.

Some information for this report comes from Reuters.

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