2 Dead, Several Missing in Philippines Ferry Sinking

Rescuers are searching for possible survivors of a ferry that sank overnight in the central Philippines, leaving at least two dead.

Officials said Sunday that around 100 people were rescued by passing vessels after the Maharlika II sank in a sudden storm after leaving Liloan port in Southern Layte province.  Authorities are continuing to search for survivors because they are unsure of how many people were on board the ferry.

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.

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 AP, AFP and Reuters.

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