Three UAE teachers from the UAE are among at least 31 people who died when ferries capsized in the Philippines, according to colleagues.
Two of the teachers worked at Al Ittihad National Private School in Al Ain while a third is a former employee who worked at another school, it is understood. Seven UAE-based teachers were on holiday together in the Philippines, their home country, when the disaster occurred on Saturday.
The death toll has risen from 26 to 31 people, after three boats capsized in the Iloilo-Guimaras Strait. Three people remain missing while 62 were rescued.
Andrew Valenzuela, a teacher at Al Ittihad, was the first of the teachers to be confirmed dead, said Voltaire Vizconde, another teacher at the school who was not on the trip. They were already on their way home when the tragedy happened.
Eden Perales, who works at Al Ittihad, and Jaquelyn Alferez, the former employee believed to have moved on to another UAE school, were initially declared missing but were also later confirmed dead, Mr Vizconde said. He said Ms Perales and Ms Alferez were “the best of friends”.
“I am still in shock,” Mr Vizconde said. “Four of them survived the tragedy. And praise God for sparing me, my wife and baby, as we decided not to join their Boracay trip.”
“All the Filipino teachers at the school are close with one another,” Mr Vizconde said. “This was the first time for them to spend the summer holidays.”
Describing the three teachers who died, he said they were “hardworking and energetic, loved by their students”.
The teachers had gone on holiday together to Boracay, a small island known for its beautiful beaches.
The inter-island ferries either turned over or sank in rough seas, wind and rain between Guimaras and Iloilo provinces, police said.
All trips between Iloilo City and Guimaras have been suspended, leaving about 700 passengers stranded, local media reported.