MANILA - At least 70 people are missing after a ferry sank in the waters off the central Philippines in bad weather on Saturday night, the government's civil defence office said.

The Maharlika II ferry, carrying at least 84 people went down off the central island of Leyte with only 14 people rescued so far by other boats said Mina Marasigan, spokeswoman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council

"Rescue boats had trouble reaching them because the waves were really huge," she told AFP. The coast guard and private vessels are still in the area, Marasigan said, adding there are hopes more people will be rescued in the coming hours.

The ferry had reported "problems with steering" and had also been buffeted by heavy rains, worsened by Typhoon Kalmaegi which is approaching the northern Philippines, she said.