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CAPSIZED FERRY FAILED A SAFETY CHECK LAST WEEK

SHARE CAPSIZED FERRY FAILED A SAFETY CHECK LAST WEEK

An overcrowded ferry that capsized a few hundred yards from shore, killing at least 54 people, failed a safety check last week and was ordered out of service, the coast guard said Monday.

The victim's of Sunday's disaster included 31 children, and 12 people were missing.Many of the children were hit by pieces of flying debris as the wooden ship, battered by strong winds and high waves, overturned at the end of its two-hour voyage from Bantayan Island in Cebu province to Cadiz, 300 miles southeast of Manila.

The government, which plans to file criminal charges against the boat's captain and owner, ordered similar ferries inspected Monday. Several dilapidated boats of the same design were ordered out of service for safety checks.

Beniabon Funeral Home, Cadiz's biggest, ran out of coffins. Forty-eight bodies were brought there, including 26 children.

The ferry ML Gretchen was carrying more than 200 people, twice its legal capacity, when wind and high waves caused it to start rocking around 6:45 p.m. Sunday.

Passengers panicked and rushed to one side of the vessel or scrambled onto its roof deck, captain Norberto Nepange said. The roof deck collapsed, pinning some passengers, while the ferry overturned under the shifting weight, coast guard Lt. Cmdr. Feliciano Dy said.

"As I grabbed and put on a life jacket, a boy clung to me," Glenda Destacanento, 25, told The Associated Press. "I told him to hold on, but when waves struck as we drifted, he was gone."