At least 56 people, many of them children, drowned and scores are feared missing after an overcrowded boat capsized off Jolo island in the southern Philippines, officials said last Thursday. About 70 survived, many rescued by fishermen
, while one man swam two miles to shore after the ML Annahada capsized on Wednesday night, the coastguard said.
Twenty-seven children, aged from three months to nine years, were among the dead.
The vessel, locally called a motor launch, was authorized to carry only cargo, and capsized after picking up passengers at sea, said coastguard operations officer Lieutenant Roy Echeverria.
After it left Jolo, "several boats carrying
people pursued it in the open sea and they boarded the launch, which was illegal and unauthorized," Echeverria said.
The sinking was the latest to blight the country's already poor maritime safety record
. In 1987, about 4,000 people died in a collision between the ferry Dona Paz and an oil tanker -- the world's worst peacetime sea tragedy.
More than 40 people died and over 700 were rescued last December when Philippine ship MV Asia South Korea sank in the Visayan Sea in the central Philippines.