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Philippines ferry sinking: Kim Nirvana owner on murder charge

Rescuers help passengers from the capsized ferry (02 July 2015) Image copyright AP
Image caption Divers and rescuers searched for survivors from the capsized ferry

Philippines police have filed murder charges against the owner and crew of a ferry that capsized off the coast of Leyte, killing at least 56 people.

The Kim Nirvana was carrying 173 people when it overturned in rough waters just outside the port of Ormoc on Thursday.

Human error and overcrowding are being investigated as possible causes.

But reports say the boat's owner denies it was overloaded, while the captain has said the vessel capsized because it was hit by large waves while turning.

A total of 19 people have been charged, including owner Joge Bong Zarco and Captain Warren Oliviero, local police official Asher Dolina told AFP news agency.

"They were not careful, showing there was an intent to kill. They were reckless on purpose," he said.

He said an initial investigation showed the boat capsized as it was making an abrupt turn.

Murder is punishable by up to 40 years' imprisonment.

The ferry was heading for the central islands of Camotes, in Cebu province, to the south-west of Leyte, according to local media reports.

People in the Philippines rely on ferry services to get around its thousands of islands, but vessels are often poorly maintained, leading to scores of deaths at sea every year.

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