Three killed, more than 240 rescued after fire on ferry in the Philippines

Rescuers carrying a victim to shore in Dipolog city. The blaze broke out before dawn as the Lite Ferry 16 was cruising to Dapitan City from Cebu in the Philippines.
Rescuers carrying a victim to shore in Dipolog city. The blaze broke out before dawn as the Lite Ferry 16 was cruising to Dapitan City from Cebu in the Philippines.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA • Three people were killed and over 240 plucked to safety in the southern Philippines yesterday after a fire tore through a crowded ferry, the authorities said, as rescuers hunted for more survivors.

The blaze broke out before dawn as the Lite Ferry 16 was cruising to Dapitan City from Cebu, prompting some of the terrified passengers to throw themselves overboard, one witness said.

It is not clear how many passengers were on the vessel, but the Philippine Coast Guard said 245 people had so far been rescued and three confirmed dead.

The boat's official manifest listed just 172 passengers and crew.

The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, is plagued by poor sea transport, with badly regulated vessels prone to overcrowding and accidents.

Coast Guard spokesman Captain Armand Balilo said search and rescue operations were continuing as the authorities worked to determine the exact number of people on the boat. "We have ordered the captain to explain the discrepancy," he said.

The ferry's operator, Danilo Lines, said a team was deployed to assist the rescued passengers and tugboats dispatched to take the stricken ferry back to port.

Some 30 years ago, another Philippine ferry, the Dona Paz, collided with an oil tanker in an accident that claimed over 4,000 lives in the world's worst peacetime disaster at sea.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2019, with the headline 'Three killed, more than 240 rescued after fire on ferry in the Philippines'. Print Edition | Subscribe