A ferry carrying 173 people capsized on Thursday as it left a central Philippine port in choppy waters, leaving at least 36 dead and 19 others missing, coast guard officials said.
They said at least 118 people from the M/B Kim Nirvana were rescued by nearby fishing boats and coast guard personnel or swam to safety off Ormoc city on Leyte Island.
Coast guard spokesman Armand Balilo said the wooden outrigger ferry was leaving Ormoc for the Camotes Islands, about 44 kilometers (27 miles) to the south, when it was lashed by strong waves.
Survivors told The Associated Press by cellphone that the bow of the ferry suddenly rose from the water before the vessel flipped over on one side, turning the vessel upside down and trapping passengers inside.
Mary Jane Drake, who was traveling with her mother and American husband, said the ferry was pulling slowly out of the port when it suddenly flipped to the left in strong waves and overturned, trapping her and other passengers. She, her mother and husband swam to safety from underneath the ferry.
“No one was able to jump out because it overturned very swiftly. There was no time to jump,” she said.
Her husband Lawrence Drake, a 48-year-old retired firefighter from Rochester, New York, said he ran to one side of the boat to try to balance it but it was too late.
“I jumped out of my seat and ran to the front as far as I could, and tried to lean over. I am a big guy, and tried to push the boat back over but it was way too late,” he said.
Within a few seconds, the boat overturned, with many of the passengers screaming in panic, he said.