MANILA, Philippines Roiling seas stalled efforts Monday to get inside a ferry that capsized during a deadly typhoon while survivors recalled drifting at sea for more than 24 hours, first in a raft and then in life jackets.
Officials initially reported 747 passengers and crew were aboard the ferry on Saturday, but said Monday that the vessel was carrying about 100 more. Only 38 survivors have been found so far, including 28 on Sunday.
Carlo Jason Arrabis, a 22-year-old nursing graduate, was among those who managed to clamber aboard a life raft before it capsized, forcing the people who had crowded inside to swim for shore. Not everyone made it.
"We were shouting "Help, help!" and some of us were blowing on our whistles," Arrabis said. "Others were clinging to the lifeboat. We did not expect to survive.
"I just entrusted my life to God. I was praying every minute. I was calling all the saints."
The ship ran aground around at noon Saturday, then capsized. Survivor Reynato Lanoria, a janitor on the ship, estimated that about 100 people could have escaped the vessel, but thought the others were trapped inside.
Divers heard no response when they hammered on the tip of the nearly 24,000-ton Princess of Stars that was jutting from the water off Sibuyan island in the central Philippines. Officials were considering boring a hole into the vessel's hull to look for survivors.
"We're not ruling out that somebody there is still alive," coast guard chief Wilfredo Tamayo said. "You can never tell."
Rescue workers would have to operate carefully. The ferry's owner, Sulpicio Lines, said the vessel was carrying bunker oil that could leak out.
A U.S. Navy ship carrying search-and-rescue helicopters was expected to arrive from Okinawa late Monday, and a P-3 maritime surveillance plane also was being dispatched.
However, hope dwindled by the hour that large groups of survivors might be found in areas where communications were cut off by the weekend storm that left at least 163 people dead in flooded communities.
Six bodies, including those of a man and woman who had bound themselves together, have washed ashore, along with children's slippers and life jackets.
The coast guard said it was checking a survivor's report that at least one group of people some dead, some alive had been spotted bobbing in the sea.
About two dozen relatives went to the Manila office of ferry owner Sulpicio Lines. Some wept as they waited for news.
"I'm very worried. I need to know what happened to my family," said Felino Farionin, his voice cracking. His wife, son and four in-laws were on the ferry, which was going from Manila to Cebu.
Others were angry that the ship was allowed to leave Manila late Friday for a 20-hour trip to Cebu with a typhoon approaching. The government ordered Sulpicio Lines to suspend services pending an investigation into the accident and a check of its other ships' seaworthiness.
Debate also began anew on safe-sailing rules in a country prone to storms Fengshen was the seventh typhoon this year and dependent on ferries to get around the sprawling archipelago.
Though President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said the ferry never should have left, Sulpicio Lines said it sailed with Coast Guard approval. The company said it will give $4,500 in compensation to relatives of each person who died, along with financial assistance to the survivors.
The Philippines was the scene of the world's worst peacetime maritime disaster when the ferry Dona Paz sank in 1987, killing more than 4,341 people.
Typhoon Fengshen began lashing the central Philippines early Saturday, setting off landslides and floods, knocking out power and leaving hundreds missing. It continued to dump rain on Luzon island and generate strong winds Monday as it headed in the general direction of China and Taiwan.Three entire provinces Albay, Antique and Iloilo were declared to be in a state of calamity, along with three towns in two other provinces, disaster officials said.
Associated Press writers Teresa Cerojano and Jim Gomez contributed to this report.