7 die in Philippine ferry fire; over 120 rescued from water


MANILA – A ferry carrying more than 130 people caught fire in the northeastern Philippines on Monday, killing seven people and forcing passengers and crewmembers to jump into the sea where they were rescued by other vessels.

The coast guard said everyone onboard had been accounted for by midday. Twenty-four people were injured and brought to a hospital after the fire engulfed the M/V Mercraft 2 while it was approaching a seaport in Real town in Quezon province from Polillo Island.

Many of the 134 passengers and crew were forced to jump into the water and were plucked from the sea by vessels in the area, coast guard officials said.

The fire apparently started from the engine room, the officials said. It was brought under control and the wreckage towed to shore in Real.

Pictures released by the coast guard showed fire engulfing the ferry and dark smoke billowing from it. Injured survivors on stretchers were taken to waiting ambulance vans while a rescuer tried to revive an unconscious survivor by pressing on his chest.

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Sea accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago because of frequent storms, badly maintained boats, overcrowding and weak enforcement of safety regulations. 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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