Cargo ship sinks in Philippines, 14 missing

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MANILA, Oct 2 (Reuters) At least 14 crew members were missing after a Philippine ship carrying 800 tonnes of cement sank off a western island, the coast guard said today.

Spokesman Lieutenant Armand Balilo said coast guard and navy vessels were sent to the area where the cargo ship reported its last position to search for survivors and check for any oil spillage that could damage coral reefs off Palawan island.

The search began after fishermen found four survivors on Sunday.

''We were told that four crew from M/V Mia had been rescued by local fishermen on Sunday,'' Balilo told reporters, adding that strong winds and big waves brought by a tropical storm last week could have caused the boat to sink.

Coast guard authorities said the vessel left a port on the central Philippine island of Cebu on September 26 to deliver cement to Brooks Point on western Palawan, and had been expected to arrive two days later.

Hours before it was due to arrive, however, the ship's captain said by radio that bad weather would cause a day's delay. The ship never arrived.

On Sunday, tropical depression Lekima swept off the Philippines, leaving at least eight people dead and four missing, a disaster official said.

REUTERS SZ HT1138

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