Filipino rescuers search for 21 boat passengers

Rescue vessels and a helicopter scoured the rough seas in the eastern Philippines on Thursday for a fishing boat that disappeared with 21 people aboard, officials said. The small boat left Cataduanes Island on Wednesday afternoon but failed to arrive at its destination in nearby Rapu-Rapu Island, a distance of about 40 kilometers, said disaster official Cedric Daep in Albay province. Navy vessels and an air force helicopter launched a search Thursday as soon as the weather improved, the coast guard said. The boat operator sent a cell phone text message to his relatives saying they encountered rough weather, a radio report said. Families of the missing passengers in Cataduanes started their own sea search but failed to find any wreckage or survivors, the coast guard said. Monsoon rains have been pounding the main northern island of Luzon for days, causing waist-deep floods and canceling classes in the capital, Manila. The weather bureau warned of flash floods and landslides and advised fishing boats to stay in port. It said winds can reach up to 55 kilometers per hour and waves can surge up to 5 meters.