- Second Philippine boat accident in less than a year
- 225 people rescued – Coast Guard
- The death toll rises after bodies are found in the cabin
- The Philippines has a solid track record in maritime security
MANILA, March 30 (Reuters) – Philippine rescuers searched the smoldering wreckage of a charred boat on Thursday for survivors or victims of an inter-island ferry fire that killed 29 people, including a 6-month-old baby. , officials said.
Investigators have not yet identified the cause of the fire, which broke out at around 11pm (1500 GMT) on the southern island of Basilan on Wednesday, when several passengers were sleeping in air-conditioned cabins on the lower deck of the boat.
“I thought I was dreaming, but when I opened my eyes it was dark and we were surrounded by smoke,” Mina Nani, 46, a passenger on the MV Lady Mary Joy 3, told DZRH radio.
He said he survived by jumping overboard and sharing a flotation device with another passenger until they were rescued.
There were conflicting figures on the number of people on board, officials said, adding that it was not overloaded. The Coast Guard said 225 people, including 36 crew members, were rescued.
Eleven people drowned, including three children, who jumped from the burning ship, while 18 people died in the fire on board, Governor Hadjiman Hadaman Salliman told DZRH.
“We haven’t explored the entire ship yet because the ship is still warm,” Sulliman said of the beached vessel.
Commodore Regard Marf, head of the coast guard for the Mindanao region, told Reuters there was “confusion” after the spreading fire woke people from their sleep.
The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, has a poor record for maritime safety, with ships often overcrowded and many aging vessels in use.
In May, at least seven people died when a high-speed ferry carrying 134 people caught fire.
In 1987, the Dona Pass, an overloaded passenger ferry, collided with an oil tanker off the island of Mindoro, south of the capital Manila, killing about 5,000 people in the world’s worst peacetime shipping disaster.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales Editing by Ed Davis, Martin Petty, Robert Birsal)
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