Manila, July 3 (IANS/EFE) The death toll in the ferry accident in the Philippines touched 39 on Friday as rescue teams got to work early in the morning and found three more bodies, GMA News channel reported.
Eighteen people are still missing.
A Philippine navy ship, five divers and two military aircraft have joined the rescue efforts by the coast guard.
MV Kim Nirvana-B, which capsized on Thursday near the port of Ormoc, was carrying a total of 173 passengers and 16 crew members, according to the coast guard.
The ferry was sailing towards the Camotes Islands, some 40 km south-west of Ormoc when it encountered giant waves and sank just 100 metres from the port of departure.
Several survivors said there was not enough time to escape the ship as a violent wave caused the ship to capsize without warning.
They also accused the ship’s crew of not distributing life vests despite the bad weather.
Captain Pedro Tinampay of the Philippine Coast Guard District Eastern Visayas quashed claims the ship was overloaded, saying it had a carrying-capacity of 178 passengers.
However, another survivor told the media the ferry was also carrying hundreds of sacks of cement and rice.
The captain and crew have been placed under arrest by the Philippine coast guard that is investigating the incident, GMA News said.
The country’s meteorological agency PAGASA had warned fishermen of tropical storm Egay in Eastern Visayas, where Ormoc is located.
Dozens of people die in the Philippines each year in accidents at sea caused by bad weather, failure to comply with safety regulations, poor vessel maintenance and overloading.
The 1987 shipwreck of the Philippine ferry Dona Paz, in which 4,341 people died, was the biggest accident in the history of commercial navigation.