Dozens killed in blaze on Philippines ferry
March 30, 2023 03:05 pm
At least 28 people have been killed and 230 rescued after a passenger ferry caught fire in the Philippines.
The blaze began in the ship’s air-conditioned cabins on Wednesday night but it is unclear how, officials said.
Among the dead were at least three children, including a six-month-old baby.
Earlier, officials said the number of people missing was uncertain because an exact passenger count was not known. Just 205 were listed on a manifest.
The Philippine Coast Guard said search and rescue operations were ongoing and there were no signs of overloading on the ship.
The initial death toll amounted to less than a dozen people - these were thought to have drowned as they jumped into the water without life jackets.
However authorities then discovered another 18 bodies on the vessel that were “totally burnt”, said Commodore Rejard Marfe of the Coast Guard.
He added that “chaos” resulted when the fire broke out, as most of the passengers were sleeping at the time.
The captain eventually ran the vessel aground so that it would be easier for those onboard to swim to shore.
Authorities said earlier that 14 people were injured and another seven missing.
The MV Lady Mary Joy 3 caught fire around 22:40 local time (14:40 GMT) off Baluk-baluk island in Basilan province. It had been travelling to another island.
Mayor Arsina Kahing-Nanoh told CNN Philippines that one of the rescued passengers said an explosion could be heard before the blaze broke out.
She added that more explosions were heard as the ship ran aground.
The coast guard said it would assist with an investigation and safety assessment, and check for oil spills.
The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, has a poor maritime safety record.
Vessels are often overcrowded, with many ageing ships still in use.
Last May, at least seven people died after a fire in a high-speed ferry carrying 134 people.
In 1987, around 5,000 people perished in the world’s worst peacetime shipping disaster, when an overloaded passenger ferry collided with an oil tanker off Mindoro island.
Source – BBC