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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

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Rescuers in the Philippines may bore a hole in a ferry capsized by a deadly typhoon in a desperate attempt to find survivors among more than 800 missing passengers and crew, an official said Monday.

A group of 28 ferry passengers and crew washed ashore after drifting at sea for more than a day from the site where their ship was capsized and left most of the hundreds aboard missing and presumed dead, officials said.

Manila's DZBB radio said the survivors, 20 male passengers, four women and four crewmen, drifted at sea for more than 24 hours wearing their lifejackets, reaching Mulanay township in eastern Quezon province late Sunday.

Coast guard chief Vice Adm. Wilfredo Tamayo announced early Monday that they had been found, raising the total number of survivors to 38. All were discovered after making it to land.

Tamayo said rescuers may have to bore a hole in the ship to allow divers access to an area where many aboard the ferry were believed to have been trapped. But rescue workers would have to operate carefully because the ferry also was carrying a cargo of bunker oil that could leak out.

Coast guard frogmen who managed to get to the stricken ship got no response when they rapped on the hull with metal instruments, then had to give up late Sunday due to the strong waves. The ship carried more than 740 passengers and crew.

"We're not ruling out that somebody there is still alive," Tamayo said. "You can never tell."

Strong waves continued to pound the area Monday. A US Navy ship carrying search-and-rescue helicopters was expected to arrive from Okinawa late Monday, and a P-3 maritime surveillance plane also was being dispatched.

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