Page last updated at 16:06 GMT, Thursday, 24 December 2009

Philippines sea tragedy leaves four dead and 23 missing

A survivor is carried off a boat on a stretcher in Manila, 24 December
There were 46 survivors but many were feared trapped as they slept

Four people have died and another 23 are missing after a ferry collided with a fishing boat in the Philippines.

The wooden-hulled passenger ferry and the boat were carrying at least 73 people between them when they collided in Manila Bay in the early hours.

Coastguard spokesman Commander Armando Balilo told local media that 46 people had been rescued from the waters.

The cause of the collision is not clear as there were no reports of poor weather conditions.

The incident came as thousands of people in the Philippines travelled home for the Christmas period.

Rush to rescue


The passenger ferry was on its way to Lubang island, south-east of Manila.

"This is a small vessel with a single wooden hull. Water rushed in and the vessel sank not long after the collision," coastguard Commodore Luis Tuazon told local radio.

The other vessel - a 369-tonne fishing boat named Nathalia - was damaged but still afloat, said Commander Balilo.

It had been on an extended fishing trip in the Turtle islands in the southern Philippines and was returning to the Navotas port in northern Manila.

A coastguard statement said an air and sea search was continuing, but there were fears that those missing were trapped in the passenger ferry as they slept.

Maritime accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago because of tropical weather, badly maintained passenger boats and weak enforcement of safety regulations.

The world's worst maritime disaster in peacetime occurred in the Philippines in December 1987. More than 4,000 people died when the Dona Paz ferry collided with a tanker.

Despite frequent government promises to improve safety, accidents have continued.

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