Storm Sinks Ferry, Kills 25 in Philippines

Tropical storm Chanchu finished its swipe across the central Philippines on Saturday, leaving at least 25 dead and four missing, blowing a ferry full of passengers aground and forcing Southeast Asian trade ministers to shift their annual retreat from a resort island to the capital.

The coast guard said 21 bodies had been recovered from the stormy sea near Masbate island southeast of Manila, where a motorboat ferry sank the day before. Eighteen other passengers were rescued, said coast guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Coyme.

The motorboat ignored warnings not to sail, leaving at dawn to evade authorities, and left no list of its passengers, who were headed to nearby Sorsogon province on the main island of Luzon, he said.


Senior officials of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations decided to move a two-day meeting of trade ministers that starts Monday from Boracay island because of strong winds, rough seas and power outages.

The storm made landfall on Samar island in the east late Thursday, sliced westward, and headed out over the South China Sea on Saturday, leaving continuing rain and bad weather in its wake.

On Saturday, four fishermen were reported missing at sea off Quezon province, on the east coast of Luzon, the Office of Civil Defense said.

It also reported a fisherman drowned when his boat capsized off central Iloilo province, and a man was killed after he was hit by a coconut tree in Nagcarlan town, on Luzon's Laguna province.

On Friday, a couple were electrocuted when a swaying coconut tree severed an electric line in Manapla town on central Negros island.

The ferry MV Filipina Princess, carrying 713 passengers, ran aground as it sought shelter early Saturday morning off Tablas island, about 260 kilometers (165 miles) southeast of Manila, said Nestor Ponteres, an official with ferry operator Sulpicio Lines.

A large tugboat sent to assist the ferry was delayed by large waves, he said.

On Friday, the empty ferry MV Northern Samar sank after it was buffeted by waves while moored at a port in Tabaco town, 320 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Manila.

The storm ripped billboards off their steel frames along several roads in metropolitan Manila where winds toppled several trees but caused no major damage. Several communities in the Philippine capital also suffered intermittent power outages.

A swollen river broke a dike early Saturday and submerged four villages under waist-deep water on Mindoro island south of Manila.

Authorities in Manila were having difficulty contacting officials in provinces affected by the storm because of power outages and were trying to reach them by mobile telephone, said civil defense operations chief Neri Amparo.