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Boats grounded in Philippines

PHILIPPINE authorities yesterday grounded all seven of a company's inter-island ferries after one of its boats overturned in big waves, killing 12 people, officials said.

Police and the coast guard are searching for the skipper and owner of the ferry, Commando 6, which overturned on Saturday after large waves broke one of its bamboo outriggers off central Mindoro island, prompting passengers to shift to one side in panic, coast guard officials said.

Twelve passengers, including a Japanese tourist, drowned while 48 others survived, including the crew members and skipper.

Most of the passengers were bound for Mindoro's popular beach resort of Puerto Galera from nearby Batangas province, the coast guard said.

Coast guard chief Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo said he wanted the skipper and owner to explain why the ferry carried more than the authorized 42 people. The skipper also was being sought to help in the investigation.

All seven other ferries of the company that owned Commando 6 were grounded for safety inspections, Tamayo said.

Sea accidents are common in the Philippines because of rough weather, badly maintained boats and weak enforcement of safety regulations.

Regional police Chief Superintendent Luisito Palmera said three young children were among the dead.

Two Japanese men were among the survivors. It wasn't clear if there were other foreigners on the boat.


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