MANILA, Philippines (AP) – All 120 passengers and crew members aboard a Philippine ferry that caught fire at sea Sunday have been safely rescued and the fire has been extinguished, the coast guard said.
The Coast Guard said the M/V Esperanza Star caught fire at dawn as it was traveling from Siquijor Province to Bohol Province in the central Philippines with 65 passengers and 55 crew on board. It added that it had deployed two rescue ships to help put out the fire, which had raged for more than five hours.
Photos and videos released by the Coast Guard show flames and black smoke billowing from two decks at one end of the ferry. Coast Guard personnel on another ship used water cannons to put out the flames while a fishing boat and another vessel could be seen nearby.
“Everyone on board is safe,” Coast Guard spokeswoman Joy Gumathai said in a statement.
She added that the survivors have been transferred to the coastal city of Tagbilaran in Bohol province, and the investigation is still underway.
Sea accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago due to frequent storms, poor ship maintenance, overcrowding, and spotty enforcement of safety rules, especially in remote provinces.
In March, a fire broke out — and raged through the night — on a ferry carrying about 250 people and killed at least 31 passengers and crew. The Coast Guard said off the southern island of Basilan.
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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