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7 die, more than 120 rescued in Philippine ferry fire

Smoke billowing from Philippine ferry
Smoke billows from the ferry M/V Mercraft 2 as it’s towed to an island off the town of Real in the northwest Philippines.
(Philippine Coast Guard)

A ferry carrying more than 130 people caught fire in the northeastern Philippines on Monday, killing seven passengers and forcing many survivors to jump into the sea to await rescue by other vessels.

The fire rapidly spread from the engine room to the upper passenger deck of the M/V Mercraft 2 while it was approaching a port in the town of Real in Quezon province, town administrator Filomena Portales said. The ferry had been en route to Real from Polillo Island.

Many of the 134 passengers and crew jumped into the water and were plucked from the sea by motorboats and cargo vessels, Philippine Coast Guard officials said.

“Fishing boats and other vessels were able to approach quickly and everybody helped, so the rescue was fast,” Portales said by telephone, adding that many of those rescued were in shock and had to be treated for burns and bruises.

Pictures released by the Coast Guard showed fire engulfing the ferry and dark smoke billowing from it. Injured survivors on stretchers were taken to waiting ambulances while a rescuer tried to revive an unconscious survivor by pressing on his chest.

The Coast Guard said everyone on the ferry had been accounted for. Two dozen people who were injured were taken to a hospital.

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Portales said seven passengers died from burns and drowning and one possibly had a heart attack while floating in the water.

Investigators were looking into the fire, and other ferries operated by the owner of Mercraft 2 would likely be suspended from operating while undergoing safety inspections, officials said. The wreckage was towed to shore in Real.

Sea accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago because of frequent storms, badly maintained boats, overcrowding and weak enforcement of safety regulations. 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.


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