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Four dead, 88 missing as ferry carrying 238 passengers sinks off Philippines

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An inter-island ferry carrying 238 passengers and crew has sunk off the north-eastern Philippines after being battered by fierce winds and high seas.

At least four people have died and 88 others are missing, officials said. More than 160 were rescued by coastguard ships and fishermen.

Coastguard spokesman Armand Balilo said the rescue was launched after the Mercraft 3, which had 251 passengers and seven crew on board, began sinking between Quezon province’s Infanta town and the ferry’s destination of Polillo island.

A survivor, Donel Jade Mendiola, told DZMM radio the weather had been fine when the ferry left port in Quezon’s Real town but that conditions deteriorated about two hours into the trip.

“The vessel came to a halt and started taking in water in the front side. The passengers dashed to one side and the ferry started to sink,” Mendiola said. He said the passengers were instructed to don life vests.

Coastguard boats, navy vessels and fishing boats rescued 166 people, including many who were floating in the rough sea, Balilo said.

Rescue efforts will continue despite the bad weather and nightfall, he said, adding that a coastguard helicopter tried to fly to the area but was hampered by the strong wind.

Typhoons and storms, poorly maintained ferries and ships, and law enforcement issues have often been blamed for past sea disasters in the Philippine archipelago.

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