MANILA (Reuters) - Rescuers braved rough seas on Sunday searching for survivors of a Philippine ferry that capsized with more than 700 passengers and crew during a typhoon that has killed scores and left a trail of destruction.So far, only four people are known to have survived and they said many passengers did not make it off the MV Princess of Stars in time.
Others who plunged into the heaving waves lost consciousness and some life-rafts capsized.
"Many of us jumped, the waves were so huge, and the rains were heavy," a survivor identified only as Jesse told local radio.
"There was just one announcement over the megaphone, about 30 minutes before the ship tilted to its side."
"Immediately after I jumped, the ship tilted, the older people were left on the ship."
It is unclear exactly when the ferry capsized but the coast guard knew on Saturday the vessel was in trouble but could not reach the area because of high seas and bad weather.
Four people have been confirmed dead but most of the 620-plus passengers and 121 crew remain missing. According to the ship's manifest, there were 20 children and 33 infants on board.
A coastguard ship is trawling the waters around the 23,824 gross tonne vessel, which is upside down with only its bow above the waves.
The vessel sank 3 km (two miles) from Sibuyan island in the centre of the archipelago.
The head of the coastguard said there were lots of small islands where survivors could be sheltering.
"I'm hopeful that more passengers and crew have reached the shore," Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo told Reuters.
He said two more rescue boats would be dispatched as soon as the weather improves.
The vessel's owner, Sulpicio Lines, said it had lost contact with the ferry, which was en route to Cebu from Manila, at around 12.30 p.m. (0430 GMT) on Saturday.
Dozens of relatives, some in tears, crowded into the offices of Sulpicio Lines in the central city of Cebu, looking for information.
"My father was one of the passengers. Right now there is no good news," said Lani Dakay. "My father is 59, I don't even know if he can swim."