By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
MANILA (Worthy News) – The southern Philippines plunged into mourning Thursday after a ferry carrying about 250 passengers and crew caught fire, and 31 people drowned or died in the blaze, local authorities said.
Many of those rescued overnight in the seas off the southern Philippine province of Basilan had jumped off the MV Lady Mary Joy 3 “in panic,” said Basilan’s Governor Jim Hataman.
As the blaze ripped through the ferry off Baluk-Baluk Island in the Basilan province, survivors were plucked from the sea by the coast guard, navy, another ferry, and local fishermen, he added in published remarks.
The ferry was en route to Jolo town in Sulu province from the southern port city of Zamboanga when it caught fire midway off Basilan close to midnight, he stressed.
The burned ferry was then towed to Basilan’s shoreline, where coast guard personnel and other authorities later discovered 18 more bodies in a budget section of the passenger cabin, Hataman said.
He added that the search for the vessel was continuing. “These victims perished onboard due to the fire,” Hataman said.
The governor said an investigation was underway, and the discovery suggested additional travelers were not listed on the vessel’s manifest.
The disaster underscored concerns about sea accidents in the Philippine archipelago, often because of frequent storms.
However, poorly maintained vessels, overcrowding, and spotty enforcement of safety regulations, especially in remote provinces, have added to the death toll, investigations show.
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.
The latest tragedy also impacted children, noted authorities, with investigators also discovering children, including a six-month-old baby.
It was unclear how the fire at the MV Lady Mary Joy 3 started, but investigators may learn more from injured survivors who were rushed to regional hospitals.
If you are interested in articles produced by Worthy News, please check out our FREE sydication service available to churches or online Christian ministries. To find out more, visit Worthy Plugins.