50 confirmed dead on capsized ferry

50 confirmed dead on capsized ferry

Rescuers have retrieved five more bodies from a ferry that capsized moments after departing from a central Philippine port, raising the death toll to 50.

The bodies were recovered hours after coastguard spokesman Armand Balilo said all 187 passengers and crew members on the MB Kim Nirvana had been accounted for.

Mr Balilo said the new bodies were found after a floating crane pulled the 36-ton wooden vessel close to shore.

The additional fatalities raised questions about the number of people believed to have been on board, and Mr Balilo said officials will recheck the number of survivors and investigate if the crew allowed people not on the manifest to board the ferry.

The vessel flipped over off Ormoc City yesterday when it was lashed by strong waves after leaving the port en route to one of the Camotes Islands, about 20 miles south.

The captain and some of the crew are in custody pending an investigation, Mr Balilo said.

"Among the things we will look into is if there was a faulty manoeuvre, the stability of the vessel, and of course the weather," he added.

Regional coastguard commander Pedro Tinampay told DZBB radio in Manila that the movement of cargo inside the ferry might have contributed to the accident. The ferry was carrying heavy construction materials and bags of rice.

Ormoc, a regional economic and transportation hub of about 200,000 people, is in a disaster-prone eastern region that is regularly hit tropical storms and typhoons that blow in from the Pacific.