Divers search for missing after Philippine ferry sinks, 38 dead

MANILA: Divers will search waters in the central Philippines on Friday for 15 people still missing after a ferry carrying 187 passengers and crew sank a day earlier, killing 38 people, the coast guard said.

There were 134 survivors after the MBCA Kim-Nirvana, a motorised outrigger, capsized minutes after leaving the port of Ormoc City. The number on board was revised down on Friday after it was found two crew members did not board the ferry.

Search and rescue operations continued through the night, with coast guard personnel reinforced by a Philippine navy ship and two air force planes.

A formal marine casualty investigation into the cause of the sinking will begin on Friday, Philippine coast guard spokesman Armand Balilo told local radio.

A preliminary investigation points to human error after the wooden hulled ferry made a sharp right turn soon after it left port in Leyte province, south of the capital, Manila.

Panicked passengers crowded the right side of the ferry, causing it to tilt slowly before capsizing, Balilo said.

"The ferry was carrying cement and rice but it didn't appear to be overloaded," Balilo said.

Scores, sometimes hundreds, of people die each year from ferry accidents in the Philippines, an archipelago of 7,100 islands with a notoriously poor record for maritime safety.

Overcrowding is common and many of the vessels are in bad condition.