Nearly 470 people were missing hours after a Philippine passenger ship packed with men, women and children returning home for Christmas sank, highlighting once more the poor state of the ferry industry here. Asia South Korea, a 27-year-old vessel, had 606 passengers on board and 52 crew.
Philippine maritime history includes the world's worst peacetime sea disaster -- the death of more than 4,000 people in December 1987 when the ferry Dona Paz and an oil tanker collided near Manila. Then too, most of the passengers were people going home for Christmas. Despite frequent sea disasters, ferries remain the most popular means of long-haul transport in this largely impoverished archipelago of more than 7,000 islands because fares are cheaper than air travel. The government has launched a programme to upgrade the industry but over-age vessels still ply Philippine waters.
Trans-Asia shipping Lines, owners of the ship, said the vessel underwent extensive seaworthiness checks in September.