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Death toll from Basilan ferry fire reaches 29, says coast guard

The death toll from the fire that razed a passenger vessel off Basilan on Wednesday night has risen to 29, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said on Thursday.

Of the 225 individuals aboard MV Lady Mary Joy 3, the PCG Station Isabela said 29 passengers died from the incident. A total of 196 persons have been rescued, of which 36 were crew members while 160 were passengers.

“As of now, continuous ‘yung pag-search natin sa barko para makita natin kung meron pang cadavers na madi-discover,” Marfe told reporters.

(As of now, the search and rescue operations are ongoing. We might find more cadavers inside the ship.)

“Nalunod yung sampu. Ito ‘yung [mga] tumalon…nawalang lifejacket and nalunod,” he added.

(The ten reported earlier drowned. They jumped off the ship without life jackets.)

According to Marfe, a total of 230 survivors were reported in the incident including the crew aboard the vessel. Of the figures, nine sustained injuries and are currently being treated in hospitals.

MV Lady Mary Joy 3 was en route to Jolo, Sulu from Zamboanga City on March 29 when the blaze hit the maritime vessel at around 10:40 p.m. It was declared fire out at 7:30 a.m. on March 30.

To save the passengers, the PCG official confirmed the captain brought the vessel to Baluk-Maluk Island in Hadji Muhtamad town.

Marfe said a maritime casualty investigation will arrive in the area to conduct a formal investigation but witnesses’ accounts said the fire reportedly started in an airconditioned cabin of the vessel.

He also confirmed  MV Lady Mary Joy 3 was not overloaded as it has a 430-people capacity but was only carrying 205 passengers and 35 crew when the fire broke out.

No reports of oil leaks were likewise observed from the vessel.

"Andun po yung personnel ng Marine Environmental Protection Team ng BARMM and wala po tayong nao-observe na any spillage of oil,” Marfe said.

(The BARMM Marine Environmental Protection Team was there and no oil spill was observed.)

“Based on record, nag-bunkering sya is nung March 22 pa and nakailang byahe na sya so most like kaunti na yung fuel nya at baka nga naevaporate na during ng sunog,” he said.

(Based on records, they conducted bunkering on March 22 and had gone on several trips since then. Most likely, the remaining fuel in its tank is very little and might have evaporated during the fire.) —NB, GMA Integrated News