Ships and helicopters were scouring seas in the central Philippines for survivors of a ferry that sank early this morning with about 60 people aboard. Two people have died, and 54 have been rescued, officials said. The inter-island ferry left Pio Duran port in Albay province and sank three hours later at about 5am near Burias Island, about 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. The ferry's manifesto listed 35 passengers and 22 crew, but an official says there were likely five more on board.
Of the 54 rescued so far, at least three drifted to the shore and were picked up by fishermen, a Coast Guard rep 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. The ferry had two buses and one truck aboard, the rep noted. Sea accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago because of frequent storms, badly maintained boats, and weak enforcement of safety regulations. A boat also capsized in India's Ganges River today, leaving at least four people drowned and another 25 feared missing. Twenty passengers have been rescued. (Read more Philippines stories.)