At least 10 people have died and around 230 were rescued after a passenger ferry caught fire in the seas off the southern Philippine province of Basilan, a coastguard official and rescue workers said.
Nine other people were injured in the fire on Wednesday night that started in air-conditioned cabins, Commodore Rejard Marfe, coastguard chief in southern Mindanao, told the DZMM radio station.
Photographs shared by the coastguard showed the MV Lady Mary Joy 3 ship being sprayed with water, while rescued passengers were brought to the shore.
The MV Lady Mary Joy 3 was travelling from Zamboanga City on Mindanao Island to Jolo Island in Sulu province when the fire broke, prompting passengers to jump overboard, an emergency worker told reporters.
Basilan Governor Jim Salliman said there could be more people missing because the number of passengers on the vessel exceeded the 205 listed in the ship’s manifest.
“Probably there are passengers who didn’t register in the manifest,” he said. Survivors were taken to Zamboanga and Basilan where the injured received treatment for burns, Salliman said.
Nixon Alonzo, chief of the Basilan disaster agency, said some passengers jumped into the sea when the fire broke out.
“Some of the fatalities were recovered from the vessel, and some drowned,” he said. “There were signs of burns in some of the victims.”
The coastguard said it will assist in an investigation and safety assessment, as well check for any signs of an oil spill.
The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, has a poor record for maritime safety, with vessels often overcrowded and many ageing ships still in use.