THREE people including an infant died while 245 were rescued after a fire tore through a crowded ferry late Tuesday evening near Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte.
The blaze broke out as passengers slept. Roused, terrified people threw themselves into the water, one witness said.
It is not clear how many passengers were on the il-fated Lite Ferry 16, but the Philippine Coast Guard said 245 people had been rescued and two confirmed dead — 60-year-old Danilo Gomez Sr. and one-year-old Chloe Labisig.
Search operations were continuing on Wednesday as authorities worked to confirm the actual number of missing.
The boat’s official manifest listed 36 crewmembers, 136 passengers, 28 of them children. The Coast Guard wants the ferry owner and skipper to explain the discrepancy in the manifest list and the number of people rescued.
Coast Guard spokesman Captain Armand Balilo said search and rescue operations were continuing as authorities worked to determine the exact number of people on the boat.
“We have ordered the captain to explain the discrepancy,” Balilo said.
The ferry’s operator, Danilo Lines, said a team was deployed to assist the rescued passengers and tugboats dispatched to bring the stricken ferry back to port.
Local emergency authorities said they had accounted for 415 survivors, nearly double the number provided by the Coast Guard.
“It seems many people were not listed on the manifest,” Nelson Quimiguing, a disaster management officer in Dapitan City said.
The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, is plagued by poor sea transport, with its badly regulated boats and ships prone to overcrowding and accidents.
This latest incident occurred 30 years after another Philippine ferry, the Dona Paz, collided with an oil tanker in a pre-Christmas accident that claimed more than 4,000 lives in the world’s worst peacetime disaster at sea.
With Zaida delos Reyes