28 dead in Philippines passenger ferry fire

28 dead in Philippines passenger ferry fire


At least 28 people have died including a 6-month old baby after a fire broke out on an inter-island passenger ferry in the southern Philippines, the country’s coast guard said today.

Authorities have yet to identify the cause of the fire that started close to 11 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Wednesday off the island of Basilan, when many of the passengers were asleep in air-conditioned cabins on the ferry’s lower deck.

“Initially there were 10 we recovered, they died of drowning. And then we discovered another 18 on board the vessel, at the cabin. They were totally burnt,” coast guard chief in the southern Mindanao region, Commodore Rejard Marfe, was quoted by local media as saying.

There were conflicting figures on the number of passengers on the ferry, which was not overloaded, but the coast guard said 230 people including 35 crew were rescued. Marfe earlier said most were sleeping at that time of the fire.

He said firefighters have, however, been able to bring the blaze under control.

The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, has a poor record for maritime safety, with vessels often overcrowded and many ageing ships still in use. In May, at least seven people died after a fire in a high-speed ferry carrying 134 people.

In 1987, around 5,000 people died 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.

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