MANILA – Rescuers were searching Saturday for more than 200 people missing after a ferry sank in the central Philippines, killing at least 24 people, the coast guard said.

The MV St Thomas Aquinas was carrying 814 people when it collided with a cargo ship off the port of Talisay City in Cebu province Friday evening.

Emergency workers rescued 629 survivors from the sea overnight, said coast guard vice commandant Rear Admiral Luis Tuason Jr.

He said divers and helicopters were dispatched to help in the search for 217 missing, including 58 infants that remained unaccounted for.

“We fear that some people have been trapped inside the ferry,” he said.

Tuason said the ferry sank within about 10 minutes after the collision.

“The vessel suffered a huge hole on its right side in the rear and as soon as the two ships separated, it took on water fast,” he said.

The 2Go Group, which owns the sunken vessel, said the crew distributed life jackets to the passengers and carried out emergency procedures to abandon the ship.

“At the same time, the ship’s officers sent a distress signal to the nearest Philippine Coast Guard station to alert them for immediate rescue operations,” it said in a statement.

The ferry had an authorized capacity of 1,010 passengers.


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