At least 31 were killed while 7 others were missing when a ferry carrying 250 passengers and crew caught fire in the southern Philippines, a provincial governor said Thursday.
Several of the rescued people had jumped off the MV Lady Mary Joy 3 in panic and had been saved by rescuers, Governor Jim Hataman of the southern island province of Basilan. The search and rescue effort continued on Thursday for at least seven missing passengers.
The burned ferry was towed to Basilan's shoreline, where coast guard personnel and other authorities later discovered 18 more bodies in a budget section of the passenger cabin, Hataman said, adding the search of the vessel was continuing.
“These victims perished onboard due to the fire,” Hataman said. The governor said an investigation was underway and the discovery suggested there were additional travelers not listed on the vessel's manifest. "The ferry was en route to Jolo town in Sulu province from the southern port city of Zamboanga when it caught fire midway off Basilan close to midnight," he said.
At least 23 passengers were injured and brought to hospitals. “Some passengers were roused from sleep due to the commotion caused by the fire. Some jumped off the ship,” Hataman told The Associated Press by telephone.
Sea accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago because of frequent storms, badly maintained boats, overcrowding and spotty enforcement of safety regulations, especially in remote provinces. In December 1987, the ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with a fuel tanker, killing more than 4,300 people in the world's worst peacetime maritime disaster.
(With inputs from AP)
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