Manila, Philippines — A Philippine ferry carrying 82 passengers and crew caught fire on Friday as it approached a port south of Manila, and at least 73 of those on board have been rescued, including many who jumped into the water, the Coast Guard and survivors said.
Search and rescue efforts continued after nightfall for the passengers and crew of the M/V Asia Philippines, an inter-island cargo and passenger vessel that departed from the nearby town of Calapan in Oriental Mindoro province, the Coast Guard said. .
Among those rescued, a 44-year-old woman was taken to a hospital with unknown injuries.
Videos released by the Coast Guard show flames and black smoke coming from the ferry, which was located near other ships more than a kilometer (about a mile) from the anchorage area of the port of Batangas, said coast guard officials.
A ship helped coast guard ships put out the fire, they said. The cause of the fire was not immediately clear.
Passenger Benedict Fernandez told DZMM radio that smoke and flames suddenly rose from the second deck as crew members apparently tried to turn an engine on and off as the ferry approached port. There was no immediate order to abandon ship, but when the smoke made it difficult to see, he and his two children decided to jump into the water from the third deck, along with other passengers.
“I pushed my kids away because if we didn’t jump off the top we would really burn ourselves because the soles of our feet were already feeling the heat,” Fernandez said.
They were rescued from the water by another boat approaching the burning ship and then transferred to a tugboat, which took them to port, he said.
The ferry, which carried 48 passengers, 34 crew members and 16 vehicles, can carry about 400 passengers, the Coast Guard said. In the past, there have been instances where ferries carried unregistered passengers in violation of regulations.
Marine accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago due to frequent storms, poorly maintained boats, overcrowding and irregular enforcement of safety regulations, especially in remote provinces.
In December 1987, the Dona Paz ferry sank after colliding with a fuel tanker, killing more than 4,300 people in the world’s worst peacetime maritime disaster.
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