At least 17 people have died and more than 500 people rescued after a ferry carrying about 700 people collided with a cargo ship in the Philippines.
The ferry, MV Thomas Aquinas, began sinking after hitting the cargo vessel on Friday evening near the central city of Cebu, officials said.
Coastguard and naval vessels were joined by local fishing boats in the rescue effort, which is continuing.
The incident took place around 2km (1.2 miles) from the shore.
The ferry, carrying 692 people, was sailing into the port at Cebu – the country’s second biggest city – when it collided with the cargo ship travelling the other way at about 21:00 local time (01:00 GMT).
Coastguard officials said the ferry began listing. “The impact was very strong,” Rachel Capuno, a spokesperson for the owners of the ferry, told local radio.
Survivors said hundreds of passengers jumped into the ocean as the ferry began taking on water. The crew distributed life jackets.
Many of the passengers were asleep and others struggled to find their way in the dark. One survivor, Jerwin Agudong, said he and other passengers jumped overboard in front of the cargo vessel.
PHILIPPINE FERRY DISASTERS
1987: Dona Paz ferry sinks after colliding with a fuel tanker, 4,341 people die.
2008: The ferry MV Princess of the Stars capsizes during a typhoon, killing nearly 800.
“It seems some people were not able to get out,” Mr Agudong told radio station DZBB. “I pity the children. We saw dead bodies on the side, and some being rescued.”
The ferry sank within 30 minutes of the collision, the AFP news agency reports. Cebu coastguard commander Weniel Azcuna told reporters the cargo ship, Sulpicio Express 7, had 36 crew members on board, but it did not sink.
Passengers on the ferry had embarked at Nasipit in the southern province of Agusan del Sur.
Maritime accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago because of tropical weather, badly maintained passenger boats and weak enforcement of safety regulations.
The world’s worst maritime disaster in peacetime occurred in the Philippines in December 1987. More than 4,000 people died when the Dona Paz ferry collided with a tanker.