March 24, 2023

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — All 85 passengers and crew members were rescued safely after an interisland ferry caught fire near a port destination south of Manila and search and rescue efforts were terminated, Philippine officials said Saturday.

The last two unaccounted passengers on the M/V Asia Philippines carrying 47 passengers and 38 crew members were on another ferry. Coast Guard officials said they were earlier thought to be the cargo and passenger ships that were hit by the fire as they approached the port in Batangas province on Friday.

The ferry, from Calapan, in the eastern province of Mindoro, was more than a kilometer (about a mile) from the port of Batangas when smoke billowed from the second deck and then caught fire, forcing many passengers to jump into the water in panic. According to one rescued passenger. They were picked up from the water by Coast Guard personnel, a nearby bank and a tugboat.

A boat also helped the Coast Guard put out a fire on the ferry, which was later towed to an anchorage as an investigation into the cause of the fire began, the Coast Guard said. Inspectors reported no damage to the 16 vehicles on the ferry.

Officials said the ferry was close to the port and could quickly rescue all the victims, with one injured being taken to hospital.

Maritime accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago due to frequent storms, poorly maintained vessels, overcrowding and poor enforcement of safety regulations, especially in remote provinces.

In December 1987, the ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with an oil tanker, killing more than 4,300 people in the world’s worst peacetime maritime disaster.

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