A ferry carrying about 250 passengers and crew caught fire between Philippine islands and at least 12 people were killed with seven still missing, a provincial governor has said.
Many of those rescued jumped off the ferry in panic at the height of the fire and were pulled from the sea by the coast guard, navy, another ferry and local fishermen, said governor Jim Hataman of the southern island province of Basilan. The search and rescue effort was continuing on Thursday.
The governor said most of those onboard the MV Lady Mary Joy 3 were rescued overnight but authorities were double-checking the numbers from different rescue teams, suggesting the figures could change.
Mr Hataman said the ferry was on its way to Jolo town in the Sulu province from the southern port city of Zamboanga when it caught fire midway off Basilan close to midnight.
The dead included at least three children, who were apparently separated from their parents, and at least 23 passengers were injured and taken to hospital.
“Some of the passengers were roused from sleep due to the commotion caused by the fire. Some jumped off the ship,” Mr Hataman told The Associated Press.
Most of those who died drowned and were recovered at sea, officials said.
The burned ferry has been towed to Basilan’s shoreline and an investigation is underway, Mr Hataman said.
Sea accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago because of frequent storms, badly maintained boats, overcrowding and spotty enforcement of safety regulations, especially in remote provinces.
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.