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Officials: 38 dead, 15 still missing after ferry capsizes in Philippines

By
Andrew V. Pestano and Doug G. Ware
The Philippine Coast Guard, pictured in this file photo, led the rescue effort after a ferry carrying nearly 200 people capsized in Ormoc City, Philippines, on Thursday, July 2, 2015. At least 38 died and more than a dozen remained missing hours after the accident, which is under investigation. Photo: Philippine Coast Guard
The Philippine Coast Guard, pictured in this file photo, led the rescue effort after a ferry carrying nearly 200 people capsized in Ormoc City, Philippines, on Thursday, July 2, 2015. At least 38 died and more than a dozen remained missing hours after the accident, which is under investigation. Photo: Philippine Coast Guard

ORMOC, Philippines, July 3 (UPI) -- Dozens were killed in the Philippines on Thursday when a crowded ferry carrying nearly 200 people abruptly capsized -- just minutes after it left port, authorities said.

The MB Nirvana departed Ormoc City headed for Camotes Island at about noon local time Thursday when the disaster occurred, CNN reported late Thursday.

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According to officials, 173 passengers and 14 crew were aboard the vessel. By late Thursday, the Philippine Red Cross said at least 38 were killed, 134 survived and 15 remain missing. Three American citizens were among the survivors, CNN's report said.

The cause of the sinking is not yet known, but officials said the boat overturned in rough waters and strong winds.

"The winds are really bad, and the seas are really bad," Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said. He also said officials wanted to get a helicopter involved with the rescue but couldn't due to poor visibility in bad weather conditions.

The boat, about 88 feet long, was about 650 feet from the shoreline when it capsized. A rescue operation was immediately launched by the Philippine coast guard, officials said.

The capsized ferry is described as a banka or "pump boat," which is a popular craft in the Philippines similar to a canoe outfitted with outriggers and a small engine.

Rough waters and torrential rains are regular occurrences in the Philippines this time of year, which is officially classified as monsoon season.

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