June 3, 2023

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A fire on a Philippine passenger ferry killed 28 people

  • Second fatal Philippine ferry disaster in less than a year
  • Saving 230 people – a coat
  • The death toll rises sharply after bodies are found in the cabin
  • The Philippines has a patchy maritime safety record

MANILA (Reuters) – At least 28 people died, including a six-month-old baby, after a fire broke out on an inter-island passenger ferry in the southern Philippines, the coast guard said on Thursday.

Authorities have yet to determine the cause of the fire, which started around 11 pm (1500 GMT) on Wednesday off Basilan island when many passengers were sleeping in air-conditioned cabins on the lower deck of the ferry.

“First there were 10 of us who recovered and drowned. Then we discovered 18 more on board in the cabin. They were completely burned,” Commodore Richard Marphy, commander of the Coast Guard in the southern region of Mindanao, told Reuters.

There were conflicting numbers on the number of passengers on the ferry, which was not overloaded, but the coast guard said 230 people were rescued, including 35 crew members.

Marv said earlier that most of them were asleep at the time of the fire, adding, “There was chaos.”

Firefighters brought the fire under control early Thursday morning.

Pictures shared by the Coast Guard showed that the MV Lady Mary Joy 3 had been engulfed in flames.

“I thought I was dreaming, but when I opened my eyes it was completely dark and smoke surrounded us,” Mina Nani, 46, told DZRH.

She said she survived by jumping off the ship and sharing a buoy with another passenger before they were rescued.

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The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, has a poor record for maritime safety, with ships often overcrowded and many old ships still in use.

In May, at least seven people died after a fire broke out on a Philippine high-speed ferry carrying 134 people.

In 1987, some 5,000 people perished in the world’s worst peacetime shipping disaster, when an overloaded passenger ferry, Dona Paz, collided with an oil tanker off Mindoro Island, south of the capital, Manila.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales) Editing (Ed Davies) Martin Beatty

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