Some 10 people were reported dead while seven were still missing after a passenger vessel caught fire near Basilan Island late Wednesday evening, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) said Thursday.
Interviewed on Dobol B TV, Basilan PDRRMO chief Nixon Alonzo said these reports came from the Hadji Muhtamad Municipal DRRMO and are still subject for validation.
“Bale total po, according sa nalaman namin, apat na ang naiwan namin dito sa barko tapos noong dumating kami sa may port ng Isabela, may anim ding namatay. So all in all, 10 po 'yung mga namatay po,” Alonzo said.
(In total, according to the information we received, there were four dead when we left the vessel then another six were reported when we arrived in the port of Isabela.)
“Nakuha sila sa barko na patay or tumalon kasi yung iba sa dagat. Either nalunod or may mga nakita rin kami na signs na yung iba ay sunog din,” he added.
(Some of them were retrieved from the vessel dead and some of them jumped to the water. Perhaps they drowned but we also saw burn signs.)
A total of 195 passengers and 35 crew members were rescued from the fire, according to Alonzo.
A report on Unang Balita said the vessel, MV Lady Mary Joy 3, was docked at the pier of Baluk-Maluk Island when fire broke out a few minutes after 11 p.m. on Wednesday. It was scheduled to travel to Jolo, Sulu.
Authorities as of Thursday morning were still conducting monitoring activities to determine whether there were additional casualties.
Coast Guard Station Basilan reported that the conduct of search and rescue operations is ongoing at the vicinity waters off Baluk-Baluk Island in Hadji Muhtamad, Basilan.
"Upon receipt of information regarding the said fire incident, a Search and Rescue (SAR) Team from Coast Guard Sub-Station Maluso immediately proceeded in the area of the incident and was able to retrieve one female cadaver," said the Coast Guard in a Facebook post.
Another SAR Team composed of CGS Basilan, CGSS Lamitan and Special Operations Unit Team Lamitan personnel were also deployed.
The CGSS Hadji Muhtamad, which formed a Joint Search and Rescue Team with the Local Government Unit of Hadji Muhtamad led by the Mayor Arsina Kahing-Nanoh, was able to rescue four individuals and retrieved another female cadaver.
The BRP Cape Engaño, BRP Tubbataha and MCS 3007 were also deployed in the area to assist in search and rescue operations.
The Coast Guard Station Basilan, meanwhile, will also check for signs of oil spill and assist in the conduct of an investigation into the incident and assessment of the vessel.
Interviewed on Super Radyo dzBB, Coast Guard District South-Western Mindanao commander Commodore Marco Antonio Gines said the fire allegedly started at the accommodation area on the second deck of the vessel.
“Hindi pa nagko-conduct ng full investigation but allegedly galing sa accommodation area sa second deck ng barko, sa second layer,” he said.
(Full investigation has yet to be conducted but allegedly the fire started from the accommodation area on the secodn deck of the vessel.)
“Hindi pa natin talaga malaman kung ano ang nag-cause. Maaaring electrical o nag-smoke. Hindi pa natin ma-sure,” he added.
(We cannot really say what caused the fire if it's either by electrical or smoking. We cannot ascertain.)
Gines said the vessel was located in the shoreline because the captain steered it there to save the passengers.
“Siguro yun yung kanyang recourse to save the ship at yung mga passengers na niya rin, para malapit lang sa shoreline kaya nandoon siya ngayon sa Baluk-Maluk Island,” he added.
(Perhaps, it was the captain’s recourse to save the vessel and the passengers, so they will be close to the shoreline, that’s why the vessel is now at the Baluk-Maluk Island.)
Initially, Gines said the vessel was not overloaded with its 430 capacity. According to him, the vessel only had 205 reported passengers and 35 crew.
There is no reported oil spill from the vessel so far, Gines also said.
The 243 survivors were being transported through different vessels to Zamboanga City where more personnel can assist them, according to Gines. —with Joviland Rita/BAP/KBK, GMA Integrated News.