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12 dead, 7 missing in Basilan passenger ferry fire —gov

The death toll due to the fire that broke out on a passenger vessel off Basilan late Wednesday night has increased to 12, Basilan Governor Hadjiman S. Hataman-Salliman said Thursday.

"All in all, based sa update sa akin, 12 yung namatay [All in all, based on an update to me, 12 were dead]," Hataman-Salliman told Super Radyo dzBB in an interview.

According to the governor, the fatalities include three children, one of them a six-month-old infant.

Seven people were also reported missing in the incident, Hataman-Salliman said.

Citing information reaching him, Hataman-Salliman said that vessel, MV Lady Mary Joy 3, came from Zamboanga City and was heading to Sulu when the fire hit the vessel.

At least 14 victims were brought to Basilan General Hospital and nine others to Zamboanga City Medical Center, he said.

The governor said some victims told him that they were asleep when the fire occurred around 11 p.m.

Coast Guard District South-Western Mindanao commander Commodore Marco Antonio said the captain brought the vessel to Baluk-Maluk Island in Hadji Muhtamad town when it caught fire to save the passengers.

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 second 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 not overloaded, as it has a 430-people capacity but was only carrying 205 passengers and 35 crew when the fire broke out.

There is no reported oil spill from the vessel so far, Gines also said. —KBK, GMA Integrated News