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ASIA: 42 dead, nine missing following Philippine ferry accident 05 Nov 2008 7:45 PM
ASIA: 42 dead, nine missing following Philippine ferry accident

MANILA, Nov 5 AFP - The death toll from a ferry accident in the central Philippines rose to 42 today with nine people still missing.

The wooden inter-island ferry overturned yesterday when it was hit by a freak whirlwind just 20 minutes after leaving port, where weather conditions were described as calm and clear.

Local civil defence chief Raffy Alejandro said the ferry was carrying 151 passengers and crew, well in excess of the 119 people listed on the manifest.

Of those on board, 100 have been rescued, 42 are dead and nine are still missing.

"This will be subject of an investigation by the coast guard since apparently it was overloaded," said Alejandro.

It is a common practice for inter-island ferries to be overloaded with last-minute passengers who board without being listed on the manifest.

The captain of the vessel, Dante Bumbales, has been found and turned over to coast guard officials investigating the incident, said local police chiefSenior Superintendent Ruben Sindac.

The ferry had just left the port town of Dimasalang on the north-east coastof Masbate for Sorsogon port 80km away when it was hit by a sudden gust ofwind and flipped over.

The accident came four months after the 23,000-tonne Princess of the Stars capsized during a typhoon off the central island of Sibuyan carrying 850 passengers and crew.

Only 57 people survived the accident, which was the worst maritime disasterin the Philippines for 20 years.

Mishaps involving ferries are common in this archipelago where many poor people rely on small, poorly maintained vessels to travel between islands.

AFP apm =0A