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Death toll in Iloilo-Guimaras Strait boat accidents rises to 31

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED)  – Authorities said the death toll in multiple boat accidents in the Iloilo-Guimaras Strait on Saturday, August 3, has risen to 31.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported that rescuers retrieved 19 more bodies on Sunday, August 4, from the ongoing search and rescue operations after the separate sinkings of M/B Chi-chi, M/B Keziah 2, and M/B Jenny Vince.

“Many of the dead bodies have yet to be identified. They did not have identification when they were recovered,” PCG Western Visayas district commander Commodore Allan dela Vega said.

Dela Vega also explained that "squalls" or sudden strong gusts of wind at sea sunk the 3 passenger motorboats. He also said the boats sailed towards their respective ports of destination during "good weather condition." 

The PCG also ruled out collision and overloading of passengers as causes of the accident.

 All 5 crew members of M/B Keziah 2 survived. As for M/B Chi-chi, 37 survived, while 11 died and 1 remains missing. On the M/B Jenny Vince, 22 survived while 20 died and 2 were missing.

The first 2 motorboats sank around 12 pm Saturday en route to Guimaras from Iloilo City, while M/B Jenny Vince went down at around 3:30 pm.

 "We want due diligence. We want to get all the names of the passengers," said Dela Vega. "Their names should be in the manifest. That is the only document that can identify them."

Dela Vega added that an investigation will be conducted after the search and rescue operations, to see if the boats' crew have committed lapses.

 On Sunday, the state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA) released a dramatic photo of rescue divers placing two corpses, one still wearing a red life vest, on top of the only parts of one boat left above water.

The Southeast Asian archipelago nation has a poor shipping safety record, with scores dying in maritime mishaps every year, usually aboard boats that move people from one small island to another.

Sea accidents historically spike during the middle of the year, when the country is frequently hit by storms and typhoons. – with reports from the Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com