Philippine ferry blaze leaves 31 dead; rescue operation underway
Philippine ferry blaze: Massive fire engulfed a ferry in the southern Philippines leaving at least 31 people dead, officials informed on Thursday.
A rescue operation is underway, with 230 people already evacuated.
According to disaster officer Nixon Alonzo, the Lady Mary Joy 3 was travelling from Zamboanga City on Mindanao Island to Jolo Island in Sulu province when the fire broke out late Wednesday, prompting passengers to jump overboard.
Rescuers evacuated 195 passengers and 35 crew after the blaze ripped through the ferry off Baluk-Baluk Island in Basilan.
The coast guard released photos of one of its vessels spraying water on the flaming ferry while troops in smaller boats rescued people from the dark waters.
The discovery of 18 victims on the charred vessel more than doubled the previous death toll, according to Basilan Governor Jim Salliman.
"People panicked because they were asleep when the fire happened," said Commodore Rejard Marfe from the Philippine Coast Guard.
As the fire spread, the captain steered the vessel aground "so many more could survive because it would be simpler to swim to shore," Marfe told AFP.
According to Salliman, at least three children, including a six-month-old baby, were killed.
Police reported 14 individuals injured and seven persons missing.
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- PTC NEWS