PH ferry with up to 65 people onboard catches fire at sea, rescue underway

PH ferry with up to 65 people onboard catches fire at sea, rescue underway

Coast Guard personnel rush to rescue passengers of the burning ferry. PHOTO BY THE PHILIPPPINE COAST GUARD

A Philippine ferry carrying up to 65 passengers and crew members caught fire at sea on Sunday and a coast guard vessel was deployed to rescue those onboard and try to extinguish the flames, coast guard officials said.

The M/V Esperanza Star caught fire at dawn while traveling from Siquijor province to Bohol province in the central Philippines, the coast guard said. It did not immediately say how many people have been rescued if there were casualties.

Photos and video released by the coast guard show flames and black smoke billowing from two decks at one end of the ferry as coast guard personnel onboard another vessel used a water cannon to try to put out the fire. A fishing boat and one other vessel could be seen nearby.

No people could be seen aboard the burning ferry based on the photographs and video released by the coast guard.

Sea accidents are common in the Philippines because of frequent storms, badly maintained vessels, overcrowding and spotty enforcement of safety regulations, especially in remote provinces.

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In March, a fire broke out and raged overnight on a ferry carrying about 250 people and killed at least 31 passengers and crew members off the southern island province of Basilan, the coast guard said.

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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