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26 Dead, 200 Missing in Philippine Ferry Crash

Divers are searching for more than 200 people missing in the central Philippines after a passenger ferry collided with a cargo ship Friday night and quickly sank off the coast of Cebu province.

At least 28 people are known dead, with an unknown number believed to be trapped in the ferry more than 30 meters under water.

Coast Guard spokesman Armand Balilo says the Coast Guard along with fisherman and people in other small boats were able to pull more than 600 people out of the water alive in the late night darkness.



"Additional two bodies were found inside the ship. Actually, our divers have recovered four from the vessel during our diving operations. We are still searching for the 213 still missing and unaccounted. As of now, 629 passengers."



The ferry St. Thomas Aquinas was filled with 870 passengers and crew when it collided with the 11,000-ton freighter Sulpico Express 7 near Cebu City. The ferry sank within a half hour after the captain told those on board to abandon the vessel. Many people were able to strap on life jackets and jump into the dark sea.

The passengers included scores of children and babies.



Hundreds of people die each year in ferry accidents in the Philippines -- a 7,100-island archipelago with a notoriously poor record for maritime safety.

In the world's worst peacetime sea disaster, 4,375 passengers and crew aboard the ferry Dona Paz died in December 1987, after the vessel collided with a freighter in the Sibuyan Sea. Twenty-six people survived

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