7 dead as dragon boat capsizes off Boracay

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – A boat carrying the Boracay Dragon Boat Team capsized in waters off Boracay Island on Wednesday morning, September 25, leaving 7 dead.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said in a report that there were 21 members of the Boracay Dragon Boat Team on board the boat. The PCG team brought the 14 survivors to the Saint Gabriel Hospital for treatment.

PCG Spokesman Captain Armand Balilo said in a statement that strong waves caused the team's boat to capsize. The incident happened in waters off Sitio Lingganay in Barangay Manoc-Manoc at 7:40 am on Wednesday.

"Investigation revealed that the said dragon boat team was having their practice when sudden strong waves hit them which caused  [their boat] to capsize," said  Balilo.

He said the names of the victims – 3 women and 4 men – would be withheld for 24 hours, or until their next of kin had been notified about the incident. (READ: Family mourns death of Boracay paddler)

Balilo said 7 of the survivors are women, including a Chinese and a Russian, while the 7 others are men.

A local official offered a possible explanation as to why some of the team members did not survive even though they could swim.

"There are many rocks in the area so it's possible that they hit their head on them," local disaster officer Catherine Ong Fulgencio told Agence France-Presse by telephone.

The Filipino victims were training for the Kaohsiung City Cup scheduled for the southern Taiwanese city in November, said team member Remedy Aquino, who was not aboard the boat.

Dragon boat racing is a popular sport in the Philippines and many parts of Asia, where 20 paddlers sit two abreast atop a long wooden 12-meter (39-foot) boat sandwiched by a cox who steers the vessel from the rear and a drummer in front. 

Meanwhile, the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) said it will provide financial assistance to the families of the 7 victims.

POC President Abraham Tolentino announced this when he learned about the incident after the POC General Assembly Wednesday morning.

“This is a very sad, and tragic incident. All we can do is condole with the families and loved ones of the deceased and try and give some help to them," he said.

Tolentino said the POC  will give P10,000 to each family, while he will give another P10,000 as his personal donation. – With a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com