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Philippine ferry fire leaves 31 dead, at least 7 missing, a governor says : Centre County Report

In this Philippine Coast Guard photo, a Philippine Coast Guard vessel trains its hose while attempting to extinguish the fire on the MV Lady Mary Joy in Basilan in the southern Philippines early Thursday March 30, 2023.

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In this Philippine Coast Guard photo, a Philippine Coast Guard vessel trains its hose while attempting to extinguish the fire on the MV Lady Mary Joy in Basilan in the southern Philippines early Thursday March 30, 2023.

AP

MANILA, Philippines — A ferry carrying about 250 passengers and crew caught fire in southern Philippines and 31 people drowned or died in the blaze and were later discovered, a provincial governor said Thursday.

Many of those rescued jumped off the MV Lady Mary Joy 3 in panic at the height of the fire and were hauled out of the sea by the Coast Guard, the Navy, another ferry and local fishermen, said Gov. Jim Hataman of the southern island province of Basilan. Search and rescue efforts for at least seven missing passengers continued Thursday.

The burned ferry was towed to the Basilan coast, where coast guards and other authorities later discovered 18 other bodies in a budget area of ​​the passenger cabin, Hataman said, adding that the search for the vessel is continuing.

“These victims died as a result of the fire on board,” Hataman said. The governor said an investigation was underway and the discovery indicated there were other travelers not listed on the ship’s manifest.

The ferry was en route from the southern port city of Zamboanga to Jolo Town in Sulu province when it caught fire halfway off Basilan around midnight, he said.

At least 23 passengers were injured and taken to hospitals.

“Some of the passengers were jolted out of their sleep due to the excitement caused by the fire. Some jumped off the ship,” Hataman told The Associated Press over the phone.

Maritime casualties are common in the Philippine archipelago due to frequent storms, poorly maintained boats, overcrowding, and patchy enforcement of safety regulations, particularly 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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