Manila, Philipines – Rescuers recovered more bodies in rough seas where three ferry boats capsized after being buffeted by fierce winds and waves off two central Philippine provinces, bringing the death toll to 31 with three missing, the coast guard said Sunday.
Coast guard spokesman Armand Balilo said the dead were mostly passengers of two ferries that flipped over in sudden wind gusts and powerful waves Saturday off Guimaras and Iloilo provinces. Sixty-two other passengers and crew were rescued.
A third ferry, which was not carrying any passengers, also capsized in the Iloilo Strait but its five crewmen survived, Balilo said.
Survivors recounted how the sky suddenly turned dark midway through their trip, followed by strong winds and rain that battered their ferries.
Authorities wondered why a third ferry was allowed to sail about three hours after two other ferries overturned almost at the same time at noon in bad weather.
Forecasters have warned of heavy monsoon rains, thunderstorms and rain-triggered landslides amid a tropical depression more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off the country’s eastern coast.
Classes and work were suspended in metropolitan Manila on Friday and Saturday amid heavy rains and flooding, which caused intense traffic jams in low-lying areas of the capital.
About 20 typhoons and storms batter the Philippines each year, making the archipelago that lies on the Pacific typhoon and earthquake belt one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.