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Hundreds missing after Philippines ferry caps -

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ELEANOR HALL: Hundreds of people are still missing almost two days after a ferry capsized during a
typhoon off the Philippines.

It's been reported that 845 people were on board the ferry - so far only 32 of them have been found
alive.

Now the President of the Philippines Gloria Arroyo is demanding to know why the ferry was allowed
to leave Manila in such dangerous conditions.

Sara Everingham reports.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The typhoon swept across the Philippines on Saturday afternoon causing floods and
landslides and blowing roofs off houses.

(Sound of rain)

SARA EVERINGHAM: The passenger ferry - Princess of the Stars - had left the capital Manila on
Friday night.

It's one of the many passenger ferries that people rely on to travel between the thousands of
islands in the Philippines.

In the rough seas it ran aground off Sibuyan Island and capsized with an estimated 840 passengers
on board.

Four people managed to swim to shore but four bodies have also been washed up and hundreds of
others are still missing.

Anxious relatives have been gathering around the headquarters of the company that operates the
ferry waiting for news.

Dante Vargas is the legal counsel for Sulpicio Lines.

DANTE VARGAS (translated): To the families we are doing everything we can. Do not worry we're doing
all we can.

SARA EVERINGHAM: But the rescue effort has been hampered by the rough seas and emergency crews
weren't able to reach the ferry until 24 hours after it sank.

The rescue mission resumed again today and in the last few hours 28 more people have been found
drifting on a life raft.

There had been concerns some people were trapped inside the upturned ferry but the latest news is
that there are no signs of life at the scene.

A relative of one of the passengers Isadora Salinas is just one person asking how this was allowed
to happen.

ISADORA SALINAS (translated): They should not have let the ship sail because there was a typhoon
coming. How can they do that? They will not even give out information on what happened.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The President of the Philippines Gloria Arroyo has berated the coastguard for
allowing the ferry to leave the port at all.

But Senator Richard Gordon a government politician who's also the chairman of the Philippines Red
Cross there are 22 typhoons a year in the Philippines and sometimes larger ferries are allowed to
travel in them.

RICHARD GORDON: Of course that is not going to be accepted by the families and many of us here in
the country including myself. It's so easy to say, well they shouldn't have been allowed, but that
has been going on through the years and I don't know whether we should change our rules because if
we do that there would be a lot of vessels that would not be able to go out because we are being
frequently visited by typhoons and storms all the time.

SARA EVERINGHAM: He says there'll be a quick and thorough investigation.

RICHARD GORDON: Yes obviously the vessels' sea worthiness will be investigated. All that will be in
the works but right now we are concerned more with finding out who are alive and who we can rescue.

RICHARD GORDON: Senator Gordon is calling for international assistance with the rescue, but there
are fears that could come too late and those on board the ferry aren't the only ones affected by
the typhoon. The chief administrator of the central Iloilo province Manuel Mejorada says almost
every village in his area is underwater - 101 people have been reported dead there.

MANUEL MEJORADA: Yesterday there was hardly any .... But there were no villages and communities which
were not under water and where the people were literally stranded on rooftops with no food and no
water and chilling in the cold.

ELEANOR HALL: That is the chief administrator of the Iloilo province Manuel Mejorada. That report
from Sara Everingham.