(Updates with missing, rescue details, name of vessel, background)
MANILA, Aug 17 (Reuters) - Hundreds of people were missing on Saturday after a ferry sank following a collision with a cargo vessel in the central Philippines, a coastguard spokesman said.
Commander Armand Balilo said five people were confirmed dead and rescuers had saved 253 people from the ferry, which was carrying 692 crew and passengers.
The 40-year-old ferry St Thomas of Aquinas had left Cebu port for Manila with 692 crew and passengers when the collision occurred late on Friday. The cargo ship was helping to rescue passengers.
Many people were plucked from the waters by dozens of fishing boats that rushed to the area, radio reports said, and brought to local hospitals. Coastguard authorities were investigating the accident.
Balilo said the ferry had sunk close to shore, but darkness was hampering the rescue.
The Philippines was the site of the world's worst peacetime sea disaster in December 1987. The ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with the tanker Vector in the Sibuyan Sea, killing 4,375 on the ferry and 11 of the Vector's 13-man crew. (Reporting by Manny Mogato, editing by Mark Trevelyan)