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Originally published Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 4:24 PM

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Divers search Philippine ferry for dozens missing

A coast-guard official said some of the 171 missing people could be trapped inside the vessel that sank in waters about 100 feet deep off Talisay City in Cebu province, 350 miles south of Manila.

The Associated Press

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CEBU, Philippines — Divers combed through a sunken ferry Saturday in search of dozens of people missing after the ferry collided with a cargo vessel near the central Philippine port of Cebu. At least 31 were confirmed dead and hundreds rescued.

The captain of the ferry MV Thomas Aquinas ordered the ship abandoned when it began listing and then sank just minutes after collision late Friday with the MV Sulpicio Express Siete, coast-guard deputy chief Rear Adm. Luis Tuason said.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Abaya announced official passenger figures Saturday, after confusion over how many were on the ferry before it sank. He said the ferry carried 831 people — 715 passengers and 116 crew — fewer than earlier reports given by the coast guard and ferry owner, 2Go. He said the death toll had risen to 31, with 629 rescued.

Cebu coast guard chief Cmdr. Weniel Azcuna said that as of late Saturday, 171 were listed as missing.

Tuason said some of the missing could still be trapped inside the vessel that sank in waters about 100 feet deep off Talisay City in Cebu province, 350 miles south of Manila.

In a statement, 2Go said the ferry “was reportedly hit” by the cargo vessel “resulting in major damage that led to its sinking.” An investigation will begin after the rescue operation, the coast guard said.

Accidents at sea are common in the Philippine archipelago because of frequent storms, badly maintained boats and weak enforcement of safety regulations.

In 1987, the ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with a fuel tanker in the Philippines, killing more than 4,341 people in the world’s worst peacetime maritime disaster.

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