The Philippine government Wednesday said it was saddened by a sea mishap in the central province of Masbate as the death toll rose to 42 one day after the tragedy.
The MV Don Dexter Kathleen capsized off Masbate Tuesday afternoon when a sudden gust of wind hit the vessel at 1 p.m. local time (0300 GMT).
Rescue teams recovered a manifest of the ferry, which showed there were 119 passengers and six crew members on the boat, but the police said that there were more as they received reports that some were on board but their names were not in the manifest.
As of Wednesday noon, 42 fatalities have been recovered while eight remain missing, said Reuben Sindac, police director of the province. A total of 100 passengers survived the incident.
The eight passengers still missing are "feared dead" unless they managed to swim ashore, he added.
"(The Presidential) Palace is deeply saddened by the Masbate ferry mishap and commiserates with the families of victims," deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelai Fajardo said in a statement.
"Palace is coordinating with local government and the Philippine National Red Cross and Coast Guard to extend all necessary help and support to rescue remaining missing passengers, " the spokesperson added.
Authorities are still continuing their search and retrieval operations for the vessel's passengers and crew members.
Meanwhile, Dante Bombales, the captain of the vessel has been taken into custody for investigation.
Sindac said the maximum capacity of the ship was only 100, but it left the port with more than 150 people on board. The Philippine Coast Guard is currently investigating whether the vessel was indeed overloaded when it left and whether its departure was unauthorized.
Bombales, who survived the capsizal and rescued at least six passengers from the vessel, was reportedly suffering several visible wounds from the accident.
He denied the accusations and blamed the weather for the tragedy.
"We seek permission whenever we leave port. It was really sunny when we left, but then 30 minutes later there were strong gusts of wind," the captain told a local radio.
There were life jackets on the vessel but passengers failed to use them as the overturn happened too suddenly, he added.
As an archipelago with more than 7,000 islands and heavy dependence on sea-going vessels for transport, the Southeast Asian country is frequently haunted by sea mishaps, large or small.
On June 21, another ferry, named The M/V Princess of the Stars, overturned off the central province of Romblon at the height of Typhoon Fengshen, with 862 people on board. No more than 60 survived the disaster. Currently, the ill-fated vessel is still floating upside down off Romblon.
(Xinhua News Agency November 5, 2008)