Rescuers plucked most of about 60 passengers and crew from Philippine waters where their ferry sank early Friday, killing two people.

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 conducting the search and rescue, aided by local fishermen.

Two people died, 54 were rescued and several could still be missing, the Office of Civil Defense reported. The number of missing was unclear because the ferry's manifesto listed 35 passengers and 22 crew, but about five more reportedly were not on the list, provincial disaster official Bernard Alejandro said.

It was not immediately clear if they included the drivers and crew of two buses and a truck on the ferry.

Coast guard rescuers reached most of the people about 1 nautical mile (1.6 kilometer) from the shore, where the ferry sank, said Chief Petty Officer Bayani Belesario, the deputy coast guard commander for Masbate province. Some were picked up by fishermen.

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.

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.