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25 Killed in Philippines Ferry Collision

May 25, 2003

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ A passenger ferry collided with a larger boat and sank at the mouth of Manila Bay on Sunday. At least 25 people were killed and 203 were rescued.

Search operations continued after dark for others who may have been aboard the M.V. San Nicolas, a wooden-hulled ship that collided with the steel-hulled Superferry 12 around 11 a.m. near Limbones Island, off Cavite province, 50 miles south of Manila.

The collision occurred as monsoon rains and strong winds lashed the northern and central Philippines.

The San Nicolas, which had been traveling to Manila from Coron, in western Palawan province, listed 168 passengers and a crew of 25. But coast guard officials said it appeared a number of people were aboard but not on the manifest, an all-too-common practice in the Philippines.

The nearly 1,700 people aboard the Superferry 12 were all safe.

The survivors included 21 people found on shore, coast guard commander Vice Admiral Reuben Lista said. It was unclear if they swam or were taken there by small rescue boats.

The owners of both ships claimed they were on course at the time. Lista quoted survivors as saying the San Nicolas hit the Superferry 12 past the halfway point on its port side and was dragged after getting snagged on a metal boarding ladder.

He said the ships, going in opposite directions, were supposed to pass each other on their starboard sides, but that they ended up port-to-port.

``Apparently they did not give each other enough room to maneuver,″ Lista said.

Hilda Custodio, a survivor who was taken aboard the Superferry 12, told ABS-CBN television her husband helped her put on a life vest before he and one of their children jumped into the water. She hesitated with another child until the ship started going down.

``The ship’s front part broke apart and it sank very fast,″ Custodio said. ``We ran to the higher side of the ship and jumped out of a window. My husband and one of my children jumped ahead of us. I don’t know where they are.″

Two passengers aboard the Superferry 12 told ABS-CBN television that they didn’t know about the collision until they saw life rafts that had been dropped to pick up San Nicolas survivors.

Dozens of people, some in tears, waited at the coast guard headquarters compound for word on relatives. Officials gave regular updates under a shelter that protected families from the wind-blown rain.

Eudes Nerbio said his 43-year-old brother Loreto had called from the San Nicolas to report the collision before the line went dead. Nerbio said his brother was coming to Manila to enroll his children in school.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who returned earlier in the day from a state visit to the United States, also greeted survivors and met with coast guard officials.

Small boats and ferries, notorious for overloading and lacking safety features, are the chief means of travel among islands in the Philippine archipelago, where boat accidents are common.