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Philippine ferry sinks with about 60 aboard; 41 rescued so far, 2 dead

Ships and helicopters were scouring seas in the central Philippines for survivors of a ferry that sank early Friday with about 60 people aboard. Two people have died, and 41 have been rescued, officials said.

The inter-island ferry left Pio Duran port in Albay province and sank three hours later at about 5 a.m. near Burias Island, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) away across a strait. Coast guard and navy vessels and helicopters were called in to conduct the search and rescue, aided by local fishermen.

Coast guard spokesman Cmdr. Arman Balilo said two people were confirmed dead. The ferry's manifesto listed 35 passengers and 22 crew.

Of the 41 rescued so far, at least three drifted to the shore and were picked up by fishermen, Balilo said.

The weather in the area was calm and apparently did not cause the sinking, according to the ferry's captain, who was among those rescued.

Balilo said the ferry had two buses and one truck aboard.

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

In December 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.